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Does visual working memory work as a few fixed slots?

Authors
  • Li, Jie
  • Shao, Na
  • Xu, Haokui
  • Shui, Rende
  • Shen, Mowei
Type
Published Article
Journal
Quarterly journal of experimental psychology (2006)
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2013
Volume
66
Issue
11
Pages
2103–2117
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2013.773522
PMID: 23510096
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

The present study investigated whether visual working memory (VWM) functions as a few (about 3 ∼ 4) fixed slots by examining how the distribution of VWM is adjusted. Adopting a change-detection paradigm, we required subjects to memorize four items, one of which was prioritized. If VWM functions as 3 ∼ 4 slots, allocating multiple slots to the prioritized item would leave no slot for some other items; consequently no information would be stored for them, leading to a substantial decrease in change-detection performance no matter whether small or large changes occurred. The result showed that small changes on the unfavoured items were detected less accurately, indicating that more VWM was allocated to the favoured item. Yet meanwhile large changes that occurred on those unfavoured items could still be detected as well as those on the favoured one, indicating that each of them was still stored to some extent rather than completely discarded. The results suggested that VWM may not work as 3 ∼ 4 fixed slots. Possible mechanisms were discussed based on the present results, including a modified slot model with more available slots, a continuous resource model, and a hierarchical model that assumes storage of ensemble information in addition to the information of individual items.

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