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J Vis. 2013 Feb 1;13(2):1. doi: 10.1167/13.2.1.

Robust object-based encoding in visual working memory.

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Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Zhejiang University, Hang Zhou, PR China.


Recently, researchers have begun to investigate how nonspatial perceptual information is extracted into visual working memory (VWM), focusing particularly on object-based encoding (OBE). That is, whenever even one feature-dimension is selected for entry into VWM, the others are also extracted automatically. While there is evidence supporting robust OBE in VWM, some researchers have argued that it is restricted to certain conditions, suggesting that OBE might be weak. The current study analyzed the experimental differences between prior studies revealing OBE and the ones that failed, and suggested that there were three critical differences in the experimental settings. Studies supporting robust OBE predominantly were conducted by probing an "irrelevant-change distracting effect," in which a change of stored irrelevant-feature dramatically affects performance. To examine whether OBE in VWM is robust or weak, we manipulated these three aspects under the irrelevant-change distracting effect to check whether OBE could be erased. In three experiments, we found similar degrees of the distracting effect between the experimental condition (controlling these factors) and the control condition; this suggests that these factors do not affect OBE. We conclude that robust OBE exists in VWM.

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