Cookies on this website
We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you click 'Continue' we'll assume that you are happy to receive all cookies and you won't see this message again. Click 'Find out more' for information on how to change your cookie settings.

© 2016 The Author(s). Working memory is now established as a fundamental cognitive process across a range of species. Loss of information held in working memory has the potential to disrupt many aspects of cognitive function. However, despite its significance, the mechanisms underlying rapid forgetting remain unclear, with intense recent debate as to whether it is interference between stored items that leads to loss of information or simply temporal decay. Here we show that both factors are essential and interact in a highly specific manner. Although a single item can be maintained in memory with high fidelity, multiple items compete in working memory, progressively degrading each other's representations as time passes. Specifically, interaction between items is associated with both worsening precision and increased reporting errors of object features over time. Importantly, during the period of maintenance, although items are no longer visible, maintenance resources can be selectively redeployed to protect the probability to recall the correct feature and the precision with which cued items can be recalled, as if it was the only item in memory. These findings reveal that the biased competition concept could be applied not only to perceptual processes but also to active maintenance of working memory representations over time..

Original publication

DOI

10.1037/xlm0000328

Type

Journal article

Journal

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition

Publication Date

01/04/2017

Volume

43

Pages

528 - 536