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  1. Abstract

    Visual working memory is highly limited, and its capacity is tied to many indices of cognitive function. For this reason, there is much interest in understanding its architecture and the sources of its limited capacity. As part of this research effort, researchers often attempt to decompose visual working memory errors into different kinds of errors, with different origins. One of the most common kinds of memory error is referred to as a “swap,” where people report a value that closely resembles an item that was not probed (e.g., an incorrect, non-target item). This is typically assumed to reflect confusions, like location binding errors, which result in the wrong item being reported. Capturing swap rates reliably and validly is of great importance because it permits researchers to accurately decompose different sources of memory errors and elucidate the processes that give rise to them. Here, we ask whether different visual working memory models yield robust and consistent estimates of swap rates. This is a major gap in the literature because in both empirical and modeling work, researchers measure swaps without motivating their choice of swap model. Therefore, we use extensive parameter recovery simulations with three mainstream swap models to demonstrate howmore »the choice of measurement model can result in very large differences in estimated swap rates. We find that these choices can have major implications for how swap rates are estimated to change across conditions. In particular, each of the three models we consider can lead to differential quantitative and qualitative interpretations of the data. Our work serves as a cautionary note to researchers as well as a guide for model-based measurement of visual working memory processes.

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  2. Free, publicly-accessible full text available March 1, 2023
  3. Free, publicly-accessible full text available February 21, 2023
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  5. Chunks allow us to use long-term knowledge to efficiently represent the world in working memory. Most views of chunking assume that when we use chunks, this results in the loss of specific perceptual details, since it is presumed the contents of chunks are decoded from long-term memory rather than reflecting the exact details of the item that was presented. However, in two experiments, we find that in situations where participants make use of chunks to improve visual working memory, access to instance-specific perceptual detail (that cannot be retrieved from long-term memory) increased, rather than decreased. This supports an alternative view: that chunks facilitate the encoding and retention into memory of perceptual details as part of structured, hierarchical memories, rather than serving as mere “content-free” pointers. It also provides a strong contrast to accounts in which working memory capacity is assumed to be exhaustively described by the number of chunks remembered.
  6. 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 moremore »meaningful stimuli recruit additional working memory resources, allowing them to be better remembered.« less