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Perceptual expertise enhances the resolution but not the number of representations in working memory

Abstract

Despite its central role in cognition, capacity in visual working memory is restricted to about three or four items. Curby and Gauthier (2007) examined whether perceptual expertise can help to overcome this limit by enabling more efficient coding of visual information. In line with this, they observed higher capacity estimates for upright than for inverted faces, suggesting that perceptual expertise enhances visual working memory. In the present work, we examined whether the improved capacity estimates for upright faces indicates an increased number of “slots” in working memory, or improved resolution within the existing slots. Our results suggest that perceptual expertise enhances the resolution but not the number of representations that can be held in working memory. These results clarify the effects of perceptual expertise in working memory and support recent suggestions that number and resolution represent distinct facets of working memory ability.

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Correspondence to Edward Awh.

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This research was supported by National Research Service Award

This research was supported by National Research Service Award

This research was supported by National Research Service Award

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Scolari, M., Vogel, E.K. & Awh, E. Perceptual expertise enhances the resolution but not the number of representations in working memory. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review 15, 215–222 (2008). https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.15.1.215

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.3758/PBR.15.1.215

Keywords

  • Change Detection
  • Work Memory Capacity
  • Visual Working Memory
  • Capacity Estimate
  • Comparison Error