NotesFAQContact Us
Search Tips
Peer reviewed Peer reviewed
Direct linkDirect link
ERIC Number: EJ1073881
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2015-Sep
Pages: 13
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Working Memory Units Are All in Your Head: Factors That Influence Whether Features or Objects Are the Favored Units
Vergauwe, Evie; Cowan, Nelson
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v41 n5 p1404-1416 Sep 2015
We compared two contrasting hypotheses of how multifeatured objects are stored in visual working memory (vWM); as integrated objects or as independent features. A new procedure was devised to examine vWM representations of several concurrently held objects and their features and our main measure was reaction time (RT), allowing an examination of the real-time search through features and/or objects in an array in vWM. Response speeds to probes with color, shape, or both were studied as a function of the number of memorized colored shapes. Four testing groups were created by varying the instructions and the way in which probes with both color and shape were presented. The instructions explicitly either encouraged or discouraged the use of binding information and the task-relevance of binding information was further suggested by presenting probes with both color and shapes as either integrated objects or independent features. Our results show that the unit used for retrieval from vWM depends on the testing situation. Search was fully object-based only when all factors support that basis of search, in which case retrieving 2 features took no longer than retrieving a single feature. Otherwise, retrieving 2 features took longer than retrieving a single feature. Additional analyses of change detection latency suggested that, even though different testing situations can result in a stronger emphasis on either the feature dimension or the object dimension, neither one disappears from the representation and both concurrently affect change detection performance.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: National Institutes of Health (DHHS)
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Missouri
Grant or Contract Numbers: R01 HD-21338