, Volume 39, Issue 4, pp 600-613
Date: 24 Nov 2010

Do object refixations during scene viewing indicate rehearsal in visual working memory?


Do refixations serve a rehearsal function in visual working memory (VWM)? We analyzed refixations from observers freely viewing multiobject scenes. An eyetracker was used to limit the viewing of a scene to a specified number of objects fixated after the target (intervening objects), followed by a four-alternative forced choice recognition test. Results showed that the probability of target refixation increased with the number of fixated intervening objects, and these refixations produced a 16% accuracy benefit over the first five intervening-object conditions. Additionally, refixations most frequently occurred after fixations on only one to two other objects, regardless of the intervening-object condition. These behaviors could not be explained by random or minimally constrained computational models; a VWM component was required to completely describe these data. We explain these findings in terms of a monitor–refixate rehearsal system: The activations of object representations in VWM are monitored, with refixations occurring when these activations decrease suddenly.