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Quan Gu, Zaifeng Gao, Xiaochi Ma, Xiqian Lu, Hui Chen, Mowei Shen; Agent Identity Drives Adaptive Encoding of Biological Motion into Working Memory. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):703. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/18.10.703.
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To engage in normal social interactions, we have to encode human biological motion (BM, e.g., walking and jumping), the most salient and biologically significant kinetic information encountered in everyday life, into working memory (WM). Critically, each BM in real life is produced by a distinct person, carrying a dynamic motion signature (i.e., identity). Whether this motion-driven identity influences WM processing of BM remains unknown. Here we addressed this question by examining whether the clothing colors of people are extracted into WM when memorizing their actions. Two opposing hypotheses were tested: (a) WM only stores the target action (element-based hypothesis), and (b) WM stores both action and irrelevant clothing color (event-based hypothesis) interpreting each BM as an event. We required the participants to memorize actions while ignoring clothing colors, and examined the fate of irrelevant color by probing an irrelevant-change distracting effect. If the color was extracted into WM, the change of color in the probe would lead to a significant distracting effect on the action performance. We found that WM encoding of BM was adaptive: Once the memorized-actions had distinct identities, WM adopted an event-based encoding mode regardless of memory load, probe type, and the color setting of the memory array (Experiments 1, 2b, 3, and 4). However, it switched to an element-based encoding mode when the memorized-actions shared the same identity (Experiment 2a) or were inverted (Experiment 5). Overall, these findings suggest that motion-driven identity information has a significant effect on WM processing of BM.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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