Are multiple visual short-term memory storages necessary to explain the retro-cue effect?

Tal Makovski
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 2012, 19 (3): 470-6
Recent research has shown that change detection performance is enhanced when, during the retention interval, attention is cued to the location of the upcoming test item. This retro-cue advantage has led some researchers to suggest that visual short-term memory (VSTM) is divided into a durable, limited-capacity storage and a more fragile, high-capacity storage. Consequently, performance is poor on the no-cue trials because fragile VSTM is overwritten by the test display and only durable VSTM is accessible under these conditions. In contrast, performance is improved in the retro-cue condition because attention keeps fragile VSTM accessible. The aim of the present study was to test the assumptions underlying this two-storage account. Participants were asked to encode an array of colors for a change detection task involving no-cue and retro-cue trials. A retro-cue advantage was found even when the cue was presented after a visual (Experiment 1) or a central (Experiment 2) interference. Furthermore, the magnitude of the interference was comparable between the no-cue and retro-cue trials. These data undermine the main empirical support for the two-storage account and suggest that the presence of a retro-cue benefit cannot be used to differentiate between different VSTM storages.

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