Location-independent feature binding in visual working memory for sequentially presented objects
Abstract: Spatial location is believed to have a privileged role in binding features held in visual working memory. Supporting this view, Pertzov and Husain (Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 76(7), 1914–1924, 2014) reported that recall of bindings between visual features was selectively impaired when items were presented sequentially at the same location compared to sequentially at different locations. We replicated their experiment, but additionally tested whether the observed impairment could be explained by perceptual interference during encoding. Participants viewed four oriented bars in highly discriminable colors presented sequentially either at the same or different locations, and after a brief delay were cued with one color to reproduce the associated orientation. When we used the same timing as the original study, we reproduced its key finding of impaired binding memory in the same-location condition. Critically, however, this effect was significantly modulated by the duration of the inter-stimulus interval, and disappeared if memoranda were presented with longer delays between them. In a second experiment, we tested whether the effect generalized to other visual features, namely reporting of colors cued by stimulus shape. While we found performance deficits in the same-location condition, these did not selectively affect binding memory. We argue that the observed effects are best explained by encoding interference, and that memory for feature binding is not necessarily impaired when memoranda share the same location.