Spatial location is filtered out of visual working memory representations when task irrelevant, just like other features

Atten Percept Psychophys. 2021 May;83(4):1391-1396. doi: 10.3758/s13414-021-02263-8. Epub 2021 Mar 16.


Contrary to early proposals stating that we always store bound object features in visual working memory, more recent work has suggested that we can inhibit the encoding, or consolidation, of irrelevant features of objects into visual working memory. However, a number of theoretical proposals suggest that spatial location is a special feature of an object that might be obligatorily bound to objects stored in visual working memory. In this study, I used a masking paradigm to measure the efficiency of encoding into visual working memory while subjects were tasked with remembering the location, color, or both of these features of the objects. The measures of consolidation efficiency indicate that spatial location is not encoded into visual working memory unless it is relevant for the task at hand. Thus, the present experiments show that we can control which features of an object are selectively stored in working memory, including spatial location, a feature thought to be immune to such filtering.

Keywords: Attention: interactions with memory; Spatial localization; Visual working memory.

MeSH terms

  • Color
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Visual Perception