Journal article Open Access

The detection of smaller changes in visual working memory arrays

Laura Jenkins

The Shared Resource Account of visual working memory defines working memory capacity in terms of a memory resource shared equally between the items in a memory array. This enables an unlimited amount of small details to be remembered within visual working memory, naming this type of memory as qualitative visual working memory. Previous research has suggested that people can store multiple items within qualitative memory, including the storage of precise details, such as the size of a shape or the exact hue (colour) of an object. One question remains from this research, as to how small these changes in visual working memory can be and how the precise nature of visual working memory can be measured when visual elements such as colour are not used. The aim of the current research, therefore, was to produce an updated qualitative visual working memory task, in the hope of reducing working memory errors and to investigate the degree to which people can accurately remember the small, qualitative features, such as the size of a shape in memory. Researchers implemented a qualitative change detection task which asked participants to identify whether a shape size had changed, with size changes ranging from 5% to 25% in size change. Results demonstrated that people could detect size changes of all types, however ceiling effect were presented for the 25% size changes. This has enabled researchers to question whether 25% is really a small change in visual memory or whether this is more of a categorical, quantitative change. Results of the current study were discussed in terms of the Shared Resource Account to qualitative visual working memory and suggestions of future task use were discussed.

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