Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

The Reliability of Retro-Cues Determines the Fate of Noncued Visual Working Memory Representations

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

The Reliability of Retro-Cues Determines the Fate of Noncued Visual Working Memory Representations

Article excerpt

Published online: 7 January 2015

# Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Abstract Retrospectively cueing an item retained in visual working memory during maintenance is known to improve its retention. However, studies have provided conflicting results regarding the costs of such retro-cues for the noncued items, leading to different theories on the mechanisms behind visual working memory maintenance and retro-cueing. Here we tested an alternative explanation of the conflicting results regarding retro-cue costs-namely, that they are caused at least partly by differences in retro-cue reliability. We manipulated the ratio of valid-cue trials to invalid-cue trials within blocks. We used a continuous-report procedure that allowed fitting a model that provided recall probability and precision estimates for the memory representations. Reconciling previous contradictory findings, benefits for valid cues were observed in all conditions, but invalid cueing costs were found only when the retro-cue had a high reliability (i.e., was 80 % valid), but not when it had a lower reliability (i.e., 50 % valid). This was found for both the recall probability and the precision of visual working memory representations. Our results suggest that the cognitive mechanisms underlying retro-cue effects are strategically adjusted by participants, depending on the perceived retro-cue reliability.

Keywords Retro-cue . Visual working memory . Attention . Strategy . Reliability

Visual working memory (VWM) is the cognitive system in which a limited amount of visual information can be briefly maintained and manipulated. Attention interacts with many stages of VWM processing, including encoding (Posner, 1980; Schmidt, Vogel, Woodman, & Luck, 2002; Vogel, Luck, & Shapiro, 1998), maintenance (Awh & Jonides, 2001;Awh,Jonides,&ReuterLorenz, 1998; Munneke, Heslenfeld, & Theeuwes, 2010), and retrieval (Theeuwes, Kramer, & Irwin, 2011). One way to look at this interaction is through the use of retro-cues. These are typically spatial cues presented during maintenance that point out one of the memory items, which then becomes particularly likely to be tested. It has been shown that such retro-cues result in improved memory performance, relative to trials without a retro-cue (Griffin & Nobre, 2003; Landman, Spekreijse, & Lamme, 2003; Lepsien, Griffin, Devlin, & Nobre, 2005). This retro-cue benefit has been claimed to reflect (a) the reallocation of attentional resources within memory, resulting in the protection of the cued representation against decay and interference (the protection hypothesis; Makovski & Jiang, 2007; Makovski, Sussman, & Jiang, 2008; Matsukura, Luck, & Vecera, 2007; Pertzov, Bays, Joseph, & Husain, 2013; van Moorselaar, Gunseli, Theeuwes, & Olivers, under review); (b) removing noncued items from memory, therefore presumably reducing the interitem interference and competition for resources (the removal hypothesis; Kuo, Stokes, & Nobre, 2012; Souza, Rerko, & Oberauer, 2014; Williams & Woodman, 2012); (c) carrying the cued item to a more robust or "prioritized" state during maintenance, without altering noncued items (prioritization during maintenance; Myers, Walther, Wallis, Stokes, & Nobre, 2014; Rerko & Oberauer, 2013; Souza et al., 2014); or (d) prioritizing the cued representation during retrieval, without affecting maintenance per se (prioritization during retrieval; Astle, Summerfield, Griffin, & Nobre, 2012;Nobre,Griffin,& Rao, 2008).

Although all these hypotheses predict a benefit for the cued representation, they differ in their assumptions regarding the costs for noncued representations. The protection and removal hypotheses predict that retro-cueing benefits for the cued representation should be accompanied by costs for noncued representations, because they involve the reallocation of resources away from noncued items and toward the cued one. …

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