Spatial transposition gradients in visual working memory

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2014;67(1):3-15. doi: 10.1080/17470218.2013.789543. Epub 2013 May 10.


In list memory, access to individual items reflects limits of temporal distinctiveness. This is reflected in the finding that neighbouring list items tend to be confused most often. This article investigates the analogous effect of spatial proximity in a visual working-memory task. Items were presented in different locations varying in spatial distance. A retro-cue indicated the location of the item relevant for the subsequent memory test. In two recognition experiments, probes matching spatially close neighbours of the relevant item led to more false alarms than probes matching distant neighbours or non-neighbouring memory items. In two probed-recall experiments, one with simultaneous, the other with sequential memory item presentation, items closer to the cued location were more frequently chosen for recall than more distant items. These results reflect a spatial transposition gradient analogous to the temporal transposition gradient in serial recall and challenge fixed-capacity models of visual working memory (WM).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Color Perception / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Photic Stimulation
  • Probability
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Serial Learning / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Young Adult