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J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2012 Jun;38(3):643-63. doi: 10.1037/a0025707. Epub 2011 Oct 10.

Visual working memory supports the inhibition of previously processed information: evidence from preview search.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540, USA. nzal@princeton.edu

Abstract

In four experiments we assessed whether visual working memory (VWM) maintains a record of previously processed visual information, allowing old information to be inhibited, and new information to be prioritized. Specifically, we evaluated whether VWM contributes to the inhibition (i.e., visual marking) of previewed distractors in a preview search. We evaluated this proposal by testing three predictions. First, Experiments 1 and 2 demonstrate that preview inhibition is more effective when the number of previewed distractors is below VWM capacity than above; an effect that can only be observed at small preview set sizes (Experiment 2A) and when observers are allowed to move their eyes freely (Experiment 2B). Second, Experiment 3 shows that, when quantified as the number of inhibited distractors, the magnitude of the preview effect is stable across different search difficulties. Third, Experiment 4 demonstrates that individual differences in preview inhibition are correlated with individual differences in VWM capacity. These findings provide converging evidence that VWM supports the inhibition of previewed distractors. More generally, these findings demonstrate how VWM contributes to the efficiency of human visual information processing--VWM prioritizes new information by inhibiting old information from being reselected for attention.

PMID:
21988363
DOI:
10.1037/a0025707
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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