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Sci Rep. 2016 Mar 9;6:22822. doi: 10.1038/srep22822.

Object-based Encoding in Visual Working Memory: Evidence from Memory-driven Attentional Capture.

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Department of Psychology, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China.
Department of Psychology, Hangzhou Normal University, Hangzhou, China.
School of Education &Management, Yunnan Normal University, Kunming, China.


Visual working memory (VWM) adopts a specific manner of object-based encoding (OBE) to extract perceptual information: Whenever one feature-dimension is selected for entry into VWM, the others are also extracted. Currently most studies revealing OBE probed an 'irrelevant-change distracting effect', where changes of irrelevant-features dramatically affected the performance of the target feature. However, the existence of irrelevant-feature change may affect participants' processing manner, leading to a false-positive result. The current study conducted a strict examination of OBE in VWM, by probing whether irrelevant-features guided the deployment of attention in visual search. The participants memorized an object's colour yet ignored shape and concurrently performed a visual-search task. They searched for a target line among distractor lines, each embedded within a different object. One object in the search display could match the shape, colour, or both dimensions of the memory item, but this object never contained the target line. Relative to a neutral baseline, where there was no match between the memory and search displays, search time was significantly prolonged in all match conditions, regardless of whether the memory item was displayed for 100 or 1000 ms. These results suggest that task-irrelevant shape was extracted into VWM, supporting OBE in VWM.

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