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PLoS One. 2012;7(12):e50962. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0050962. Epub 2012 Dec 28.

Feature-specific encoding flexibility in visual working memory.

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Research Center for Advanced Science and Technology, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan.


The current study examined selective encoding in visual working memory by systematically investigating interference from task-irrelevant features. The stimuli were objects defined by three features (color, shape, and location), and during a delay period, any of the features could switch between two objects. Additionally, single- and whole-probe trials were randomized within experimental blocks to investigate effects of memory retrieval. A series of relevant-feature switch detection tasks, where one feature was task-irrelevant, showed that interference from the task-irrelevant feature was only observed in the color-shape task, suggesting that color and shape information could be successfully filtered out, but location information could not, even when location was a task-irrelevant feature. Therefore, although location information is added to object representations independent of task demands in a relatively automatic manner, other features (e.g., color, shape) can be flexibly added to object representations.

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