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Contralateral delay activity reveals dimension-based attentional orienting to locations in visual working memory

Töllner, Thomas, Eschmann, Kathrin C. J., Rusch, Tessa and Müller, Hermann J. 2014. Contralateral delay activity reveals dimension-based attentional orienting to locations in visual working memory. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics 76 (3) , pp. 655-662. 10.3758/s13414-014-0636-0

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In research on visual working memory (WM), a contentiously debated issue concerns whether or not items are stored independently of one another in WM. Here we addressed this issue by exploring the role of the physical context that surrounds a given item in the memory display in the formation of WM representations. In particular, we employed bilateral memory displays that contained two or three lateralized singleton items (together with six or five distractor items), defined either within the same or in different visual feature dimensions. After a variable interval, a retro-cue was presented centrally, requiring participants to discern the presence (vs. the absence) of this item in the previously shown memory array. Our results show that search for targets in visual WM is determined interactively by dimensional context and set size: For larger, but not smaller, set sizes, memory search slowed down when targets were defined across rather than within dimensions. This dimension-specific cost manifested in a stronger contralateral delay activity component, an established neural marker of the access to WM representations. Overall, our findings provide electrophysiological evidence for the hierarchically structured nature of WM representations, and they appear inconsistent with the view that WM items are encoded in isolation.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC)
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany)
ISSN: 1943-3921
Last Modified: 13 Oct 2020 09:07

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