Object-based benefits without object-based representations

J Exp Psychol Gen. 2013 Aug;142(3):621-6. doi: 10.1037/a0030300. Epub 2012 Oct 15.


Influential theories of visual working memory have proposed that the basic units of memory are integrated object representations. Key support for this proposal is provided by the same object benefit: It is easier to remember multiple features of a single object than the same set of features distributed across multiple objects. Here, we replicate the object benefit but demonstrate that features are not stored as single, integrated representations. Specifically, participants could remember 10 features better when arranged in 5 objects compared to 10 objects, yet memory for one object feature was largely independent of memory for the other object feature. These results rule out the possibility that integrated representations drive the object benefit and require a revision of the concept of object-based memory representations. We propose that working memory is object-based in regard to the factors that enhance performance but feature based in regard to the level of representational failure.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology
  • Form Perception / physiology
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology