The Nature of Short-Term Consolidation in Visual Working Memory

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Short-term consolidation is the process by which stable working memory representations are created. This process is fundamental to cognition yet poorly understood. The present work examines short-term consolidation using a Bayesian hierarchical model of visual working memory recall to determine the underlying processes at work. Our results show that consolidation functions largely through changing the proportion of memory items successfully maintained until test. Although there was some evidence that consolidation affects representational precision, this change was modest and could not account for the bulk of the consolidation effect on memory performance. The time course of the consolidation function and selective influence of consolidation on specific serial positions strongly indicates that short-term consolidation induces an attentional blink. The blink leads to deficits in memory for the immediately following item when time pressure is introduced. Temporal distinctiveness accounts of the consolidation process are tested and ruled out.

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