Attention and the Binding of Temporally Separated Features in Working Memory
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Abstract The ability to encode and maintain integrated object representations in working memory has been shown to be an automatic process, with attentional demands causing no more impairment to feature binding memory than feature memory. The current study investigated if attention becomes salient under more complex binding conditions, namely the temporal separation of features during presentation. A dual task paradigm was employed with the hypothesis that, if binding was specifically demanding, binding memory would be specifically impaired by a secondary task. Participants were shown 4 coloured shapes (presented as the colour followed by the shape) in sequence, followed by a change detection task based on a single item probe. There were 2 independent variables each with 2 levels; memory type (feature or binding) and concurrent task type (articulatory suppression or backward counting) in a within participants experimental design. There was a significant decrement to binding memory, in comparison to feature memory, for different (lure) trials, under the concurrent demand of backward counting. This indicates that executive attentional resources are involved in more complex, active forms of binding. These findings are coherent with the concept of the episodic buffer, within a working memory model. However, further research is required focusing on the nature of binding between sensory modalities to further elucidate the nature of active binding processes and whether or not they necessitate the invocation of an episodic buffer.