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J. David Timm, Frank Papenmeier; Eye Movements Support Processing Spatial Configurations in Visual Working Memory. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):3. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.3.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
[Background] Previous research has shown that object locations are less memorized individually but rather dependent on the global spatial configuration consisting of all objects. Therefore, visual working memory performance is enhanced when the global configuration is shown at retrieval compared to a single object only. It is assumed that eye movements moderate this process. However, there are contrary findings whether eye movements support or attenuate configurational effects and with the present set of experiments, we investigated to what extent the significance of spatial configurations in visual working memory depends on eye movements. [Methods] Participants encoded the locations of grey objects and performed a location change detection task for one object probed at retrieval. This object was displaced in half of the trials. Participants were always shown a global configuration in the beginning of the trial. After a delay period, either the spatial configuration or a single object was shown at retrieval. We manipulated whether participants were allowed to make eye movements. There were different conditions in which participants either were allowed to move their eyes normally or they had to fixate the center of the spatial configuration. [Results] The presentation of the spatial configuration supported the detection of location changes. Importantly, configuration effects were attenuated with enforced fixation, both with a whole trial fixation and with a respective phase fixation. [Conclusion] Our findings provide evidence for the memory advantage of spatial configurations and indicate that eye movements support processing spatial configurations in visual working memory. Future investigations should further evaluate these findings in relation to configurational effects in visual working memory and transsaccadic memory.
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