Visual working memory capacity does not modulate the feature-based information filtering in visual working memory

Jifan Zhou, Jun Yin, Tong Chen, Xiaowei Ding, Zaifeng Gao, Mowei Shen
PloS One 2011, 6 (9): e23873

BACKGROUND: The limited capacity of visual working memory (VWM) requires us to select the task relevant information and filter out the irrelevant information efficiently. Previous studies showed that the individual differences in VWM capacity dramatically influenced the way we filtered out the distracters displayed in distinct spatial-locations: low-capacity individuals were poorer at filtering them out than the high-capacity ones. However, when the target and distracting information pertain to the same object (i.e., multiple-featured object), whether the VWM capacity modulates the feature-based filtering remains unknown.

METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: We explored this issue mainly based on one of our recent studies, in which we asked the participants to remember three colors of colored-shapes or colored-landolt-Cs while using two types of task irrelevant information. We found that the irrelevant high-discriminable information could not be filtered out during the extraction of VWM but the irrelevant fine-grained information could be. We added 8 extra participants to the original 16 participants and then split the overall 24 participants into low- and high-VWM capacity groups. We found that regardless of the VWM capacity, the irrelevant high-discriminable information was selected into VWM, whereas the irrelevant fine-grained information was filtered out. The latter finding was further corroborated in a second experiment in which the participants were required to remember one colored-landolt-C and a more strict control was exerted over the VWM capacity.

CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: We conclude that VWM capacity did not modulate the feature-based filtering in VWM.

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