The influence of spatial pattern on visual short-term memory for contrast
Xing, Yue and Ledgeway, Tim and McGraw, Paul V. and Schluppeck, Denis (2014) The influence of spatial pattern on visual short-term memory for contrast. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 76 (7). pp. 1925-1932. ISSN 1943-393X
Several psychophysical studies of visual short-term memory (VSTM) have shown high-fidelity storage capacity for many properties of visual stimuli. On judgments of the spatial frequency of gratings, for example, discrimination performance does not decrease significantly, even for memory intervals of up to 30 s. For other properties, such as stimulus orientation and contrast, however, such “perfect storage” behavior is not found, although the reasons for this difference remain unresolved. Here, we report two experiments in which we investigated the nature of the representation of stimulus contrast in VSTM using spatially complex, two-dimensional random-noise stimuli. We addressed whether information about contrast per se is retained during the memory interval by using a test stimulus with the same spatial structure but either the same or the opposite local contrast polarity, with respect to the comparison (i.e., remembered) stimulus. We found that discrimination thresholds got steadily worse with increasing duration of the memory interval. Furthermore, performance was better when the test and comparison stimuli had the same local contrast polarity than when they were contrast-reversed. Finally, when a noise mask was introduced during the memory interval, its disruptive effect was maximal when the spatial configuration of its constituent elements was uncorrelated with those of the comparison and test stimuli. These results suggest that VSTMfor contrast is closely tied to the spatial configuration of stimuli and is not transformed into a more abstract representation.
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