Is the Binding of Visual Features in Working Memory Resource-Demanding?

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The episodic buffer component of working memory is assumed to play a role in the binding of features into chunks. A series of experiments compared memory for arrays of colors or shapes with memory for bound combinations of these features. Demanding concurrent verbal tasks were used to investigate the role of general attentional processes, producing load effects that were no greater on memory for feature combinations than for the features themselves. However, the binding condition was significantly less accurate with sequential rather than simultaneous presentation, especially for items earlier in the sequence. The findings are interpreted as evidence of a relatively automatic but fragile visual feature binding mechanism in working memory. Implications for the concept of an episodic buffer are discussed.

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