Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1657–1665 | Cite as

Working memory for stereoscopic depth is limited and imprecise—evidence from a change detection task

  • Jiehui QianEmail author
  • Ke Zhang
Brief Report


Most studies on visual working memory (VWM) and spatial working memory (SWM) have employed visual stimuli presented at the fronto-parallel plane and few have involved depth perception. VWM is often considered as a memory buffer for temporarily holding and manipulating visual information that relates to visual features of an object, and SWM for holding and manipulating spatial information that concerns the spatial location of an object. Although previous research has investigated the effect of stereoscopic depth on VWM, the question of how depth positions are stored in working memory has not been systematically investigated, leaving gaps in the existing literature on working memory. Here, we explore working memory for depth by using a change detection task. The memory items were presented at various stereoscopic depth planes perpendicular to the line of sight, with one item per depth plane. Participants were asked to make judgments on whether the depth position of the target (one of the memory items) had changed. The results showed a conservative response bias that observers tended to make ‘no change’ responses when detecting changes in depth. In addition, we found that similar to VWM, the change detection accuracy degraded with the number of memory items presented, but the accuracy was much lower than that reported for VWM, suggesting that the storage for depth information is severely limited and less precise than that for visual information. The detection sensitivity was higher for the nearest and farthest depths and was better when the probe was presented along with the other items originally in the memory array, indicating that how well the to-be-stored depth can be stored in working memory depends on its relation with the other depth positions.


Working memory Depth perception Change detection Binocular disparity 



This work has been supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31500919). The authors have no competing financial interests that might be perceived to influence the results and/or discussion reported in this paper.


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySun Yat-Sen UniversityGuangzhouChina

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