Visual objects interact differently during encoding and memory maintenance
The storage mechanisms of working memory are the matter of an ongoing debate. The sensory recruitment hypothesis states that memory maintenance and perceptual encoding rely on the same neural substrate. This suggests that the same cortical mechanisms that shape object perception also apply to maintained memory content. We tested this prediction using the Direction Illusion, i.e., the mutual repulsion of two concurrently visible motion directions. Participants memorized the directions of two random dot patterns for later recall. In Experiments 1 and 2, we varied the temporal separation of spatially distinct stimuli to manipulate perceptual concurrency, while keeping concurrency within working memory constant. We observed mutual motion repulsion only under simultaneous stimulus presentation, but proactive repulsion and retroactive attraction under immediate stimulus succession. At inter-stimulus intervals of 0.5 and 2 s, however, proactive repulsion vanished, while the retroactive attraction remained. In Experiment 3, we presented both stimuli at the same spatial position and observed a reappearance of the repulsion effect. Our results indicate that the repulsive mechanisms that shape object perception across space fade during the transition from a perceptual representation to a consolidated memory content. This suggests differences in the underlying structure of perceptual and mnemonic representations. The persistence of local interactions, however, indicates different mechanisms of spatially global and local feature interactions.
KeywordsWorking memory Sensory recruitment Bias Motion repulsion Direction illusion
We thank Victoria Anschütz, Julia Balles, and Cora Fischer for their help with data acquisition.
Open Practices Statement
Data or materials for the experiments reported here are available upon request. None of the experiments was preregistered.
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