Splitting attention across the two visual fields in visual short-term memory

Jean-Francois Delvenne, Jessica L Holt
Cognition 2012, 122 (2): 258-63
Humans have the ability to attentionally select the most relevant visual information from their extrapersonal world and to retain it in a temporary buffer, known as visual short-term memory (VSTM). Research suggests that at least two non-contiguous items can be selected simultaneously when they are distributed across the two visual hemifields. In two experiments, we show that attention can also be split between the left and right sides of internal representations held in VSTM. Participants were asked to remember several colors, while cues presented during the delay instructed them to orient their attention to a subset of memorized colors. Experiment 1 revealed that orienting attention to one or two colors strengthened equally participants' memory for those colors, but only when they were from separate hemifields. Experiment 2 showed that in the absence of attentional cues the distribution of the items in the visual field per se had no effect on memory. These findings strongly suggest the existence of independent attentional resources in the two hemifields for selecting and/or consolidating information in VSTM.

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