The spatially asymmetric cost of memory load on visual perception: transient stimulus-centered neglect

Davood G Gozli, Kristin E Wilson, Susanne Ferber
Journal of Experimental Psychology. Human Perception and Performance 2014, 40 (2): 580-591
Recent evidence suggests that visual working memory (VWM) load reduces performance accuracy on a concurrent visual recognition task, particularly for objects presented in the left hemifield. It has also been shown that high VWM load causes suppression of activity in the right temporoparietal junction (TPJ). Given the resemblance of VWM load effects to symptoms of unilateral neglect (i.e., impaired perception on the left side and lesion to the right TPJ), we investigated whether VWM load effects are restricted to the left side of space or extend to object-centered reference frames. In other words, akin to object-centered neglect, can high VWM load cause a perceptual cost in attending to the left side of the stimulus? We addressed this question using an object recognition task (Experiment 1) and a visual search task (Experiment 2) showing that this transient left-neglect can indeed be modulated by an object-centered frame of reference. These findings suggest that load-induced impairments of visual attention are spatially asymmetric and can emerge within multiple spatial reference frames. Therefore, the attentional consequences of high VWM load on conscious perception may serve as a useful model of unilateral perceptual neglect.

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