Visual cognition influences early vision: the role of visual short-term memory in amodal completion

Hyunkyu Lee, Shaun P Vecera
Psychological Science 2005, 16 (10): 763-8
A partly occluded visual object is perceptually filled in behind the occluding surface, a process known as amodal completion or visual interpolation. Previous research focused on the image-based properties that lead to amodal completion. In the present experiments, we examined the role of a higher-level visual process-visual short-term memory (VSTM)-in amodal completion. We measured the degree of amodal completion by asking participants to perform an object-based attention task on occluded objects while maintaining either zero or four items in visual working memory. When no items were stored in VSTM, participants completed the occluded objects; when four items were stored in VSTM, amodal completion was halted (Experiment 1). These results were not caused by the influence of VSTM on object-based attention per se (Experiment 2) or by the specific location of to-be-remembered items (Experiment 3). Items held in VSTM interfere with amodal completion, which suggests that amodal completion may not be an informationally encapsulated process, but rather can be affected by high-level visual processes.

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