Two items remembered as precisely as one: how integral features can improve visual working memory

Gi Yeul Bae, Jonathan I Flombaum
Psychological Science 2013, 24 (10): 2038-47
In the ongoing debate about the efficacy of visual working memory for more than three items, a consensus has emerged that memory precision declines as memory load increases from one to three. Many studies have reported that memory precision seems to be worse for two items than for one. We argue that memory for two items appears less precise than that for one only because two items present observers with a correspondence challenge that does not arise when only one item is stored--the need to relate observations to their corresponding memory representations. In three experiments, we prevented correspondence errors in two-item trials by varying sample items along task-irrelevant but integral (as opposed to separable) dimensions. (Initial experiments with a classic sorting paradigm identified integral feature relationships.) In three memory experiments, our manipulation produced equally precise representations of two items and of one item.

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