Dissociated mechanisms of extracting perceptual information into visual working memory

Zaifeng Gao, Jie Li, Jun Yin, Mowei Shen
PloS One 2010 December 10, 5 (12): e14273

BACKGROUND: The processing mechanisms of visual working memory (VWM) have been extensively explored in the recent decade. However, how the perceptual information is extracted into VWM remains largely unclear. The current study investigated this issue by testing whether the perceptual information was extracted into VWM via an integrated-object manner so that all the irrelevant information would be extracted (object hypothesis), or via a feature-based manner so that only the target-relevant information would be extracted (feature hypothesis), or via an analogous processing manner as that in visual perception (analogy hypothesis).

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: High-discriminable information which is processed at the parallel stage of visual perception and fine-grained information which is processed via focal attention were selected as the representatives of perceptual information. The analogy hypothesis predicted that whereas high-discriminable information is extracted into VWM automatically, fine-grained information will be extracted only if it is task-relevant. By manipulating the information type of the irrelevant dimension in a change-detection task, we found that the performance was affected and the ERP component N270 was enhanced if a change between the probe and the memorized stimulus consisted of irrelevant high-discriminable information, but not if it consisted of irrelevant fine-grained information.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We conclude that dissociated extraction mechanisms exist in VWM for information resolved via dissociated processes in visual perception (at least for the information tested in the current study), supporting the analogy hypothesis.

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