October 2020
Volume 20, Issue 11
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   October 2020
What’s the status of the relationship between complexity and dimensionality in visual working memory? It’s complicated.
Author Affiliations
  • Joel Robitaille
    Brock University
  • Stephen Emrich
    Brock University
Journal of Vision October 2020, Vol.20, 1317. doi:https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1317
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      Joel Robitaille, Stephen Emrich; What’s the status of the relationship between complexity and dimensionality in visual working memory? It’s complicated.. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1317. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1317.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Abstract

Working memory (WM) has been studied extensively for the past few decades relying on tightly controlled stimuli that varied based on 2D surface features (e.g., color, orientation, etc.). Although there are some attempts at assessing WM for more complex items, most studies have reported mixed results from dichotomous choice paradigms. Moreover, real-world objects have dimensionality, and are often highly complex, and yet studies have reported increases in performance when compared to abstract items. Thus, the effects of complexity and dimensionality on WM performance remains unclear. In this study, we used a continuous report, delayed-recall task to evaluate the psychophysical properties of memory representations for stimuli that vary in complexity/dimensionality. In Exp.1 (N=45), we used a load manipulation (i.e.,1,2, or 4 items) in which participants were required to report the orientation of a either simple lines or complex 3D stimuli. Overall recall error was worse for complex 3D shapes than for lines. Moreover, using a mixture model, we demonstrate only guess rates are affected by complexity. A Bayesian model selection analysis confirmed that that for most participants precision increased with set size for both simple and complex shapes, whereas guess rates increased only for the complex stimuli. In Exp.2 (N=55), we compared delayed-recall performance for simple lines, complex 2D stimuli and 3D stimuli. WM capacity(k) was also obtained using a change-detection task for all stimuli, as well as for colored squares. Results corroborate the findings from Exp.1, and demonstrated reduced performance for complex 2D stimuli compared to similar 3D stimuli. Partial correlations, controlling for color or line capacity, also revealed some stimulus-specific effects on recall performance independent of general memory capacity. Together, these results demonstrate that complexity and dimensionality have different effects on VWM performance, and also reveal that some aspects of performance on a delayed-recall task may be stimulus specific.

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