Working memory is a limited resource. To further characterize its limitations, it is vital to understand exactly what is encoded about a visual object beyond the "relevant" features probed in a particular task. We measured the memory quality of a task-irrelevant feature of an attended object by coupling a delayed estimation task with a surprise test. Participants were presented with a single colored arrow and were asked to retrieve just its color for the first half of the experiment before unexpectedly being asked to report its direction. Mixture modeling of the data revealed that participants had highly variable precision on the surprise test, indicating a coarse-grained memory for the irrelevant feature. Following the surprise test, all participants could precisely recall the arrow's direction; however, this improvement in direction memory came at a cost in precision for color memory even though only a single object was being remembered. We attribute these findings to varying levels of attention to different features during memory encoding.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Sensory Systems