How long does it take to form a durable representation in visual working memory? Several theorists have proposed that this consolidation process is very slow. Here, we measured the time course of consolidation. Observers performed a change-detection task for colored squares, and shortly after the presentation of the first array, pattern masks were presented at the locations of each of the colored squares to disrupt representations that had not yet been consolidated. Performance on the memory task was impaired when the delay between the colored squares and the masks was short, and this effect became larger when the number of colored squares was increased. The rate of consolidation was approximately 50 ms per item, which is considerably faster than previous proposals.
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