The development of retro-cue benefits with extensive practice: Implications for capacity estimation and attentional states in visual working memory
Number of pages
SourceMemory & Cognition, (2021)
22 februari 2021
Article / Letter to editor
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SW OZ DCC SMN
Memory & Cognition
SubjectAction, intention, and motor control
Accessing the contents of visual short-term memory (VSTM) is compromised by information bottlenecks and visual interference between memorization and recall. Retro-cues, displayed after the offset of a memory stimulus and prior to the onset of a probe stimulus, indicate the test item and improve performance in VSTM tasks. It has been proposed that retro-cues aid recall by transferring information from a high-capacity memory store into visual working memory (multiple-store hypothesis). Alternatively, retro-cues could aid recall by redistributing memory resources within the same (low-capacity) working memory store (single-store hypothesis). If retro-cues provide access to a memory store with a capacity exceeding the set size, then, given sufficient training in the use of the retro-cue, near-ceiling performance should be observed. To test this prediction, 10 observers each performed 12 hours across 8 sessions in a retro-cue change-detection task (40,000+ trials total). The results provided clear support for the single-store hypothesis: retro-cue benefits (difference between a condition with and without retro-cues) emerged after a few hundred trials and then remained constant throughout the testing sessions, consistently improving performance by two items, rather than reaching ceiling performance. Surprisingly, we also observed a general increase in performance throughout the experiment in conditions with and without retro-cues, calling into question the generalizability of change-detection tasks in assessing working memory capacity as a stable trait of an observer (data and materials are available at osf.io/9xr82 and github.com/paulzerr/retrocues). In summary, the present findings suggest that retro-cues increase capacity estimates by redistributing memory resources across memoranda within a low-capacity working memory store.
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