Object representations in visual working memory change according to the task context

Halely Balaban, Roy Luria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This study investigated whether an item's representation in visual working memory (VWM) can be updated according to changes in the global task context. We used a modified change detection paradigm, in which the items moved before the retention interval. In all of the experiments, we presented identical color-color conjunction items that were arranged to provide a common fate Gestalt grouping cue during their movement. Task context was manipulated by adding a condition highlighting either the integrated interpretation of the conjunction items or their individuated interpretation. We monitored the contralateral delay activity (CDA) as an online marker of VWM. Experiment 1 employed only a minimal global context; the conjunction items were integrated during their movement, but then were partially individuated, at a late stage of the retention interval. The same conjunction items were perfectly integrated in an integration context (Experiment 2). An individuation context successfully produced strong individuation, already during the movement, overriding Gestalt grouping cues (Experiment 3). In Experiment 4, a short priming of the individuation context managed to individuate the conjunction items immediately after the Gestalt cue was no longer available. Thus, the representations of identical items changed according to the task context, suggesting that VWM interprets incoming input according to global factors which can override perceptual cues.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 Elsevier Ltd.


  • Context
  • Contralateral delay activity
  • Event-related potentials
  • Grouping
  • Visual working memory


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