In mental rotation, a mental representation of an object must be rotated while the actual object remains visible. Where is this representation stored while it is being rotated? To answer this question, observers were asked to perform a mental rotation task during the delay interval of a visual working memory task. When the working memory task required the storage of object features, substantial bidirectional interference was observed between the memory and rotation tasks, and the interference increased with the degree of rotation. However, rotation-dependent interference was not observed when a spatial working memory task was used instead of an object working memory task. Thus, the object working memory subsystem—not the spatial working memory subsystem—provides the buffer in which object representations are stored while they undergo mental rotation. More broadly, the nature of the information being stored—not the nature of the operations performed on this information—may determine which subsystem stores the information.
Baddeley, A. D. (1986).Working memory. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Clarendon Press.
Besner, D., Davies, J., &Daniels, S. (1981). Reading for meaning: The effects of concurrent articulation.Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology,33A, 415–437.
Carpenter, P. A., Just, M. A., Keller, T. A., &Eddy, W. (1999). Graded functional activation in the visuospatial system with the amount of task demand.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,11, 9–24.
Castel, A. D., Pratt, J., &Craik, F. I. M. (2003). The role of spatial working memory in inhibition of return: Evidence from divided attention tasks.Perception & Psychophysics,65, 970–981.
Cowan, N., Elliott, E. M., Saults, J. S., Morey, C. C., Mattox, S., Ismajatulina, A., et al. (2005). On the capacity of attention: Its estimation and its role in working memory and cognitive aptitudes.Cognitive Psychology,51, 42–100.
Gauthier, I., Hayward, W. G., Tarr, M. J., Anderson, A. W., Skudlarski, P., &Gore, J. C. (2002). Bold activity during mental rotation and viewpoint-dependent object recognition.Neuron,34, 161–171.
Goldman-Rakic, P. S. (1996). Regional and cellular fractionation of working memory.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences,93, 13473–13480.
Hyun, J.-S., & Luck, S. J. (2006).Interaction between mental rotation and working memory. Unpublished observations.
Jonides, J., Sylvester, C.-Y. C., Lacey, S. C., Wager, T. D., Nichols, T. E., &Awh, E. (2003). Modules of working memory. In R. H. Kluwe, G. Lüer, & F. Rösler (Eds.),Principles of learning and memory (pp. 113–134). Cambridge, MA: Birkhäuser.
Jordan, M. I., Heinze, H. J., Lutz, K., Kanowski, M., &Jancke, L. (2001). Cortical activations during the mental rotation of different visual objects.NeuroImage,13, 143–152.
Logie, R. H. (1995).Visuo-spatial working memory. Hove, U.K.: Erlbaum.
Murray, D. J. (1968). Articulation and acoustic confusability in shortterm memory.Journal of Experimental Psychology,78, 679–684.
Postle, B. R., &D’Esposito, M. (1999). “What”-then-“where” in visual working memory: An event-related fMRI study.Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience,11, 585–597.
Rainer, G., Asaad, W. F., &Miller, E. K. (1998). Selective representation of relevant information by neurons in the primate prefrontal cortex.Nature,393, 577–579.
Ranganath, C., &Blumenfeld, R. S. (2005). Doubts about double dissociations between short- and long-term memory.Trends in Cognitive Sciences,9, 374–380.
Woodman, G. F. (2002).The involvement of visual working memory in visual search. Unpublished dissertation, University of Iowa.
Woodman, G. F., &Luck, S. J. (2004). Visual search is slowed when visuospatial working memory is occupied.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,11, 269–274.
Woodman, G. F., Vogel, E. K., &Luck, S. J. (2001). Visual search remains efficient when visual working memory is full.Psychological Science,12, 219–224.
This research was made possible by Grants MH63001 and MH65034 from NIH.
About this article
Cite this article
Hyun, JS., Luck, S.J. Visual working memory as the substrate for mental rotation. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 14, 154–158 (2007). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194043
- Visual Search
- Retention Interval
- Mental Rotation
- Work Memory Task
- Visual Working Memory