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Conci, Markus ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-3403-0318; Kreyenmeier, Philipp; Kröll, Lisa; Spiech, Connor and Müller, Hermann J. ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-4774-5654 (22. June 2021): The nationality benefit: Long-term memory associations enhance visual working memory for color-shape conjunctions. In: Psychonomic Bulletin & Review [PDF, 616kB]


Visual working memory (VWM) is typically found to be severely limited in capacity, but this limitation may be ameliorated by providing familiar objects that are associated with knowledge stored in long-term memory. However, comparing meaningful and meaningless stimuli usually entails a confound, because different types of objects also tend to vary in terms of their inherent perceptual complexity. The current study therefore aimed to dissociate stimulus complexity from object meaning in VWM. To this end, identical stimuli – namely, simple color-shape conjunctions – were presented, which either resembled meaningful configurations (“real” European flags), or which were rearranged to form perceptually identical but meaningless (“fake”) flags. The results revealed complexity estimates for “real” and “fake” flags to be higher than for unicolor baseline stimuli. However, VWM capacity for real flags was comparable to the unicolor baseline stimuli (and substantially higher than for fake flags). This shows that relatively complex, yet meaningful “real” flags reveal a VWM capacity that is comparable to rather simple, unicolored memory items. Moreover, this “nationality” benefit was related to individual flag recognition performance, thus showing that VWM depends on object knowledge.

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