Mask similarity impacts short-term consolidation in visual working memory

Lisa Durrance Blalock
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 2013, 20 (6): 1290-5
Short-term consolidation is the process by which perceptual representations are stabilized into visual working memory (VWM) representations to prevent interference from subsequent visual input. The present article reports how short-term consolidation is affected by the similarity of the subsequent visual items (i.e., visual masks) by using a color change detection task. In the task, masks were either similar or dissimilar to the memory stimuli and were displayed at varying intervals following the memory array. The similar masks were made up of the same colored squares as the to-be-remembered stimuli, whereas the dissimilar masks were black-and-white grids. The results showed more interference from similar than from dissimilar masks: Similar masks required more time to consolidate and elicited lower overall performance than did dissimilar masks. These results suggest that a simple overwriting process cannot fully account for the impact of mask type on short-term consolidation performance and that other cognitive mechanisms are involved (e.g., controlled attention).

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