Binding global and local object features in visual working memory

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When briefly presented with global and local visual information, individuals report global information more quickly and more accurately than local information, a phenomenon known as the global precedence effect (GPE; Navon, 1977). We investigated whether a bias toward global information persists in visual working memory (VWM) and whether the VWM representations for global and local features include information bound to their hierarchical levels and to each other. Navon figures, in which a larger (global) letter is composed of smaller (local) letters, were presented, and participants performed a change detection task that required participants to remember features only (either a global or local letter changed to a new identity); features bound to their hierarchical levels (the global and local letters within an object swapped levels); or features bound to each other within an object (2 letters from the same level swapped between objects). Performance suggested that there was a GPE in VWM (new global letters were more accurately detected than new local letters) and that although global and local features were not necessarily bound together in VWM, they were bound to their corresponding hierarchical levels. These results indicate that level binding in VWM occurs more readily than binding specific object features together. These findings further our understanding of how hierarchical objects are represented in VWM.

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Attention, perception & psychophysics

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