Distinct prioritization of visual working memory representations for search and for recall

  • Blaire DubeEmail author
  • Naseem Al-Aidroos


Despite the inherent limitations of visual working memory (VWM), it effectively supports numerous everyday behaviors − capabilities that are due, in part, to its flexibility. An observer can flexibly prioritize VWM representations to support at least two behavioral outcomes: An item can be prioritized to enhance its representational quality, thereby enhancing recall precision, and an item can be granted “template status,” allowing it to bias attention during visual search, speeding search for matching targets. Here we examined the relationship between these two forms of prioritization. Research has shown that a byproduct of granting an item template status is that its precision is enhanced; however, it is unclear if the inverse is also true: Does prioritizing an item for enhanced representational quality cause that item to bias attention? In the present study, participants remembered the colors of two squares for a subsequent recall task, and one was cued, indicating it was 80% likely to be the target of the memory test. To assess template status, a subset of trials ended in a visual search task in which a colored singleton distractor matched the color of the cued item in memory, the non-cued item, or an unrelated color. We found that, although the cue was effective at enhancing recall precision of the cued item, it had no systematic effect on which of the two memory items was granted template status. Thus, we conclude that the two forms of prioritization in VWM − prioritization for recall and for search − are distinct.


Visual working memory Attention Visual search 


Author Note

This work was supported by a Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) Discovery Grant to NA, and NSERC Canada Graduate Scholarship to BD.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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