Visual working memory for simple and complex visual stimuli

  • Eng H
  • Chen D
  • Jiang Y
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Does the magical number four characterize our visual working memory {(VWM)} capacity for all kinds of objects, or is the capacity of {VWM} inversely related to the perceptual complexity of those objects? To find out how perceptual complexity affects {VWM,} we used a change detection task to measure {VWM} capacity for six types of stimuli of different complexity: colors, letters, polygons, squiggles, cubes, and faces. We found that the estimated capacity decreased for more complex stimuli, suggesting that perceptual complexity was an important factor in determining {VWM} capacity. However, the considerable correlation between perceptual complexity and {VWM} capacity declined significantly if subjects were allowed to view the sample memory display longer. We conclude that when encoding limitations are minimized, perceptual complexity affects, but does not determine, {VWM} capacity.

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  • Hing Eng

  • Diyu Chen

  • Yuhong Jiang

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