The effect of spatial organization of targets and distractors on the capacity to selectively memorize objects in visual short-term memory


  • Ben Abbes Aymen
  • Gavault Emmanuelle
  • Ripoll Thierry

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We conducted a series of experiments to explore how the spatial configuration of objects influences the selection and the processing of these objects in a visual short-term memory task. We designed a new experiment in which participants had to memorize 4 targets presented among 4 distractors. Targets were cued during the presentation of distractor objects. Their locations varied according to 4 spatial configurations. From the first to the last configuration, the distance between targets' locations was progressively increased. The results revealed a high capacity to select and memorize targets embedded among distractors even when targets were extremely distant from each other. This capacity is discussed in relation to the unitary conception of attention, models of split attention, and the competitive interaction model. Finally, we propose that the spatial dispersion of objects has different effects on attentional allocation and processing stages. Thus, when targets are extremely distant from each other, attentional allocation becomes more difficult while processing becomes easier. This finding implicates that these 2 aspects of attention need to be more clearly distinguished in future research.

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