Visual working memory (VWM) is a construct hypothesized to store a small amount of accurate perceptual information that can be brought to bear on a task. Much research concerns the construct’s capacity and the precision of the information stored. Two prominent theories of VWM representation have emerged: slot-based and continuous-resource mechanisms. Prior modeling work suggests that a continuous resource that varies over trials with variable capacity and a potential to make localization errors best accounts for the empirical data. Questions remain regarding the variability in VWM capacity and precision. Using a novel eye-tracking paradigm, we demonstrate that VWM facilitates search and exhibits effects of fixation frequency and recency, particularly for prior targets. Whereas slot-based memory models cannot account for the human data, a novel continuous-resource model does capture the behavioral and eye tracking data, and identifies the relevant resource as item activation.
Figure: An example of a stimulus in this experiment.
The labels of the circles were invisible until the cursor hovered over it.