Object-substitution masking modulates spatial attention deployment and the encoding of information in visual short-term memory: insights from occipito-parietal ERP components

David J Prime, Patrik Pluchino, Martin Eimer, Roberto Dell'Acqua, Pierre Jolicœur
Psychophysiology 2011, 48 (5): 687-96
If object-substitution masking (OSM) arises from mask representations replacing target representations, OSM should impede the formation of representations in visual short-term memory (VSTM). We utilized event-related potentials to examine the effect of OSM on target processing. An N2pc was observed on trials with delayed-offset masks, indicating that focused attention was directed to the target. The sustained posterior contralateral negativity (SPCN), an index of VSTM storage, was observed in delayed-offset trials only on trials with correct responses. This supports the hypothesis that inaccurate performance on delayed-offset trials arises from a failure to encode the target in VSTM. On co-termination trials, accuracy was high and neither the N2pc nor SPCN was observed. This indicates that, in the absence of masking, the task was accomplished by maintaining a diffuse attentional state that enabled the joint encoding of the potential target items.

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