Object-based encoding in visual working memory: a life span study

Qiong Zhang, Mowei Shen, Ning Tang, Guohua Zhao, Zaifeng Gao
Journal of Vision 2013, 13 (10)
Recent studies on development of visual working memory (VWM) predominantly focus on VWM capacity and spatial-based information filtering in VWM. Here we explored another new aspect of VWM development: object-based encoding (OBE), which refers to the fact that even if one feature dimension is required to be selected into VWM, the other irrelevant dimensions are also extracted. We explored the OBE in children, young adults, and old adults, by probing an "irrelevant-change distracting effect" in which a change of stored irrelevant feature dramatically affects the performance of task-relevant features in a change-detection task. Participants were required to remember two or four simple colored shapes, while color was used as the relevant dimension. We found that changes to irrelevant shapes led to a significant distracting effect across the three age groups in both load conditions; however, children showed a greater degree of OBE than did young and old adults. These results suggest that OBE exists in VWM over the life span (6-67 years), yet continues to develop along with VWM.

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