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Poster B73

Statistical regularity improvements to visual working memory capacity depend on subjective awareness

Poster Session B - Sunday, April 14, 2024, 8:00 – 10:00 am EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Juan Manuel Chau Delgado1 (, Matias J. Ison1, Nicholas E. Myers1; 1School of Psychology, University of Nottingham

Chunking increases effective working memory capacity by encoding multiple items into a single chunk. This strategy can be applied when multiple stimuli regularly co-occur in specific patterns, allowing statistical learning. A previous study has found that benefits from co-occurrence depend on explicit awareness and rely on retrieval of chunk components from long-term memory (LTM), reflected in longer retrieval times when using the LTM-dependent strategy. This study aimed to replicate and extend previous work on the critical role of awareness and the need for LTM-based retrieval mechanisms. In a delayed visual feature report task, features could be presented together in predefined pairs (patterned condition, e.g., red square next to black square, 80% of trials) or random pairs (random condition, 20%). A post-experiment questionnaire assessed participant awareness of the regularities in the patterned condition. Participants who were explicitly aware of the pairs (N=16) demonstrated 22% better performance in the patterned condition, compared to random trials (p<0.001). Participants without full awareness (N=14) showed no improvement (p=0.427). Decision times were no longer in the patterned condition, calling into question whether the benefit depends on an additional time-consuming LTM retrieval step. We suggest that promoting metacognitive awareness is key to enhance the effectiveness of working memory strategies.

Topic Area: EXECUTIVE PROCESSES: Working memory


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April 13–16  |  2024