, Volume 63, Issue 2, pp 253-257

What are the units of visual short-term memory, objects or spatial locations?


We investigated whether the capacity of visual short-term memory (VSTM) is defined by number of objects or number of spatial locations. Previous work is consistent with either alternative. To distinguish these factors, we used overlapping stimuli that allowed us to independently manipulate the number of spatial locations while holding constant the number of objects and features to be encoded (Duncan, 1984; Vecera & Farah, 1994). In Experiment 1, the number of spatial locations had no effect on VSTM, suggesting that VSTM is object based. Experiments 2 and 3 ruled out alternative explanations based on perceptual segregation difficulty or decision noise factors. Our results provide additional support to Luck and Vogel’s (1997) demonstration that integrated objects form the units of VSTM capacity. mis|This study was supported in part by McDonnell-Pew Cognitive Neuroscience Grant 99-27 from the James S. McDonnell Foundation (D.L.) and NSF Grant BCS-9817349 (M.M.C.).