Investigating the role of spatial location in surface-feature binding: The retrieval of features and objects as a function of spatial proximity.

This source preferred by Jane Elsley

Authors: Elsley, J.V., Parmentier, F.B.R., Maybery, M.T. and Udale, R.C.

Start date: 11 May 2012

Recent working memory (WM) investigations have explored the role of spatial location in surface-feature binding (e.g., between colour & shape), drawing parallels with the perception literature (Treisman & Gelade, 1980). These studies suggest surface-features are bound with obligatory reference to spatial location, at least in the early phases of memory (Treisman & Zhang, 2006). Our study capitalized on this observation and examined the retrieval of surface-features (colour & shape) as a function of the spatial proximity of memorized coloured-shape ‘objects’. Our single probe change detection task presented four coloured shapes in distinct locations, with instructions to remember the colour and shape features. After a short delay, a single probe coloured shape was presented centrally. Participants judged whether this probe item represented both a colour and shape they had seen in the memory display, regardless of their initial pairing. To assess the influence of spatial proximity on feature retrieval, three probe conditions were compared: Intact probes required retrieval of colour and shape features originally associated with the same array ‘object’ (i.e., zero spatial distance between memorized features). Recombined-near probes consisted of a pairing of colour and shape features originally located on distinct but spatially proximal objects in the memory display. Finally, recombined-far probes comprised colour and shape features originally located on distinct and spatially distant objects in the memory display. We observed superior performance in retrieving features belonging to the same object (a ‘binding effect)’; and a response latency cost in retrieving features from spatially distant relative to spatially proximal objects (a ‘distance effect’). Our findings strengthen the claim that surface-feature bindings are processed with reference to spatial location and are discussed in terms of a focus of attention in WM that retrieves stored memoranda back into conscious awareness for further processing (Oberauer, 2002).

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