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Title: Greater Visual Working Memory Capacity for Visually Matched Stimuli When They Are Perceived as Meaningful
Abstract Almost all models of visual working memory—the cognitive system that holds visual information in an active state—assume it has a fixed capacity: Some models propose a limit of three to four objects, where others propose there is a fixed pool of resources for each basic visual feature. Recent findings, however, suggest that memory performance is improved for real-world objects. What supports these increases in capacity? Here, we test whether the meaningfulness of a stimulus alone influences working memory capacity while controlling for visual complexity and directly assessing the active component of working memory using EEG. Participants remembered ambiguous stimuli that could either be perceived as a face or as meaningless shapes. Participants had higher performance and increased neural delay activity when the memory display consisted of more meaningful stimuli. Critically, by asking participants whether they perceived the stimuli as a face or not, we also show that these increases in visual working memory capacity and recruitment of additional neural resources are because of the subjective perception of the stimulus and thus cannot be driven by physical properties of the stimulus. Broadly, this suggests that the capacity for active storage in visual working memory is not fixed but that more more » meaningful stimuli recruit additional working memory resources, allowing them to be better remembered. « less
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Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
902 to 918
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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