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Katherine Moen, Sunghyun Kim, Rebecca Goldstein, Melissa Beck; Pay attention to this, not that: Feature repetition prevents task-irrelevant feature processing. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):1294. doi: 10.1167/18.10.1294.
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Research suggests that visual working memory (VWM) storage is object based because participants automatically encode task-irrelevant features (Yin et al., 2012). However, the degree to which task-irrelevant features are encoded may vary depending on stimuli properties and the strength of the attention set for the task-relevant feature. For example, task-irrelevant features may not be stored when individuals are able to group stimuli by task-relevant features (van Lamsweerde & Beck, 2015). The current study examined if task-irrelevant features are automatically stored when participants have a strong attention set for task-relevant features, and when participants are able to group stimuli based on task-relevant feature similarity. Participants completed a change detection task with four colored shapes. In order to encourage a strong attentional set for color, participants were instructed to only detect color changes, and only color changes occurred during the first block of trials. Participants then completed a second block, with a seamless transition between the blocks, where either (1) color (task-relevant), (2) shape (task-irrelevant), or (3) both color and shape changes could occur. In order to encourage stimuli grouping based on the task relevant feature (color), feature repetition occurred on half of the trials (two different shapes shared the same color). For no repetition trials (replication of Yin et al., 2012), four unique shapes, each with a unique color, were presented. Accuracy did not differ between task-irrelevant and no change trials, suggesting that participants were not processing the task-irrelevant feature. Additionally, accuracy was higher for repetition trials than for no repetition trials, but only for task-relevant changes. These results suggest that, task-irrelevant features are not processed automatically when participants have a strong attention set for task-relevant features and when it is possible to group stimuli in VWM by similar features.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018
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