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Psychol Sci. 2017 Dec;28(12):1773-1785. doi: 10.1177/0956797617719949. Epub 2017 Sep 28.

Reprioritization of Features of Multidimensional Objects Stored in Visual Working Memory.

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1 Department of Psychology, Vanderbilt University.
2 Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University.


A prevalent view of visual working memory (VWM) is that visual information is actively maintained in the form of perceptually integrated objects. Such reliance on object-based representations would predict that after an object is fully encoded into VWM, all features of that object would need to be maintained as a coherent unit. Here, we evaluated this idea by testing whether memory resources can be redeployed to a specific feature of an object already stored in VWM. We found that observers can utilize a retrospective cue presented during the maintenance period to attenuate both the gradual deterioration and complete loss of memory for a cued feature over time, but at the cost of accelerated loss of information regarding the uncued feature. Our findings demonstrate that object representations held within VWM can be decomposed into individual features and that having to retain additional features imposes greater demands on active maintenance processes.


open data; short-term memory; visual attention; visual memory

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