The Benefit of Surface Uniformity for Encoding Boundary Features in Visual Working Memory

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Using a change detection paradigm, the present study examined an object-based encoding benefit in visual working memory (VWM) for two boundary features (two orientations in Experiments 1–2 and two shapes in Experiments 3–4) assigned to a single object. Participants remembered more boundary features when they were conjoined into a single object of uniform color than when they were not bound together into an object. However, such an object-based benefit diminished or disappeared when those features occurred on different parts of an object, as defined by surface discontinuity or by negative minima of curvature. These results suggest that the number of boundary features that can be stored in VWM is influenced by the hierarchical structure of objects: surface uniformity facilitates the integration of two boundary features into a single object representation, but this integration is weakened when the features occur on different parts of an object.

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