No evidence of binding items to spatial configuration representations in visual working memory

Rob Udale, Simon Farrell, Christopher Kent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


When detecting changes in visual features (e.g., colour or shape), object locations, represented as points within a configuration, might also be automatically represented in working memory. If the configuration of a scene is represented automatically, the locations of individual items might form part of this representation, irrespective of their relevance to the task. Participants took part in a change-detection task in which they studied displays containing different sets of items (shapes, letters, objects), which varied in their task relevance. Specifically, they were asked to remember the features of two sets, and ignore the third set. During the retention interval, an audio cue indicated which of the to-be-remembered sets would become the target set (having a 50% probability of containing a new feature). At test, they were asked to indicate whether a new feature was present amongst the target set. We measured binding of individual items to the configuration by manipulating the locations of the different sets so that their position in the test display either matched or mismatched their original location in the study display. If items are automatically bound to the configuration, location changes should disrupt performance, even if they were explicitly instructed not to remember the features of that particular set of items. There was no effect on performance of changing the locations of any of the sets between study and test displays, indicating that the configural representation did not enter their decision stage, and therefore that individual item representations are not necessarily bound to the configuration.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-968
Number of pages14
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2018


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