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Zeyu Li, Hanxi Pan, Xuanyi Wang, Songyan Lv, Zhi Li; Evidence of center-surround inhibition in visual working memory representation. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):475. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.475.
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Inter-item interference between working memory representations affects performance of working memory tasks. A traditional view suggests that the strength of interference may be proportional to the similarity between memory items. In contrast, according to a center-surround inhibition model, the strength of interference may rely on whether the memory representations fall into each other’s inhibition zone. Consistent with the center-surround inhibition account, Fidalgo et al. (2017) found that the memory representation of color was less precise if it was interfered by color representations with intermediate similarity as compared to if it was interfered by highly similar or highly dissimilar color representations. However, their results could be an artifact of swap error. When the nontarget distribution is intermediately overlapped with target distribution, the swap errors may produce an effect as if the precision of memory representation decreases. To examine this alternative account, in the present study, we replicated Fidalgo et al.’s findings with a continuous report paradigm and analyzed the data with a mixture model that takes swap errors into account. The results showed that after the effect of swap errors was controlled, the recall precision of intermediately similar colors was still worse than that of highly similar or highly dissimilar colors. In addition, the representations of the two highly similar colors (or of the two intermediately similar colors, but not of the two highly dissimilar colors) were biased away from each other. This repelling effect further suggested the center-surround inhibition in working memory representation may exaggerate the difference between two memory representations so that they could be better retrieved later. The present results provided further evidence of center-surround inhibition in visual working memory representation, supporting Fidalgo et al. (2017).
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