Date of Award

Winter 2-2023

Document Type

Thesis (Master's)

Department or Program

Psychological and Brain Sciences

First Advisor

Viola Stoermer


Prominent theories of visual working memory postulate that the capacity to maintain a particular visual feature is fixed. In contrast to these theories, recent studies have demonstrated that meaningful objects are better remembered than simple, non-meaningful stimuli. Here, we test whether this is solely because meaningful stimuli can recruit additional features — and thus more storage capacity — or whether simple visual features that are not themselves meaningful can also benefit from being part of a meaningful object. Across five experiments (each N=30) we demonstrate that visual working memory capacity for color is increased when colors are part of recognizable real-world objects compared to unrecognizable objects. Our results indicate that meaningful stimuli provide a potent scaffold to help maintain simple visual feature information, possibly because they effectively increase the objects’ distinctiveness from each other and reduce interference.

Original Citation

Chung, Y., Brady, T., & Stoermer, V. (2023). No fixed limit for storing simple visual features: Realistic objects provide an efficient scaffold for holding features in mind. Psychological Science

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