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The case against specialized visual-spatial short-term memory

Morey, Candice ORCID: 2018. The case against specialized visual-spatial short-term memory. Psychological Bulletin 144 (8) , pp. 849-883. 10.1037/bul0000155

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The dominant paradigm for understanding working memory, or the combination of the perceptual, attentional, and mnemonic processes needed for thinking, subdivides short-term memory (STM) according to whether memoranda are encoded in aural-verbal or visual formats. This traditional dissociation has been supported by examples of neuropsychological patients who seem to selectively lack STM for either aural-verbal, visual, or spatial memoranda, and by experimental research using dual-task methods. Though this evidence is the foundation of assumptions of modular STM systems, the case it makes for a specialized visual STM system is surprisingly weak. I identify the key evidence supporting a distinct verbal STM system—patients with apparent selective damage to verbal STM and the resilience of verbal short-term memories to general dual-task interference—and apply these benchmarks to neuropsychological and experimental investigations of visual-spatial STM. Contrary to the evidence on verbal STM, patients with apparent visual or spatial STM deficits tend to experience a wide range of additional deficits, making it difficult to conclude that a distinct short-term store was damaged. Consistently with this, a meta-analysis of dual-task visual-spatial STM research shows that robust dual-task costs are consistently observed regardless of the domain or sensory code of the secondary task. Together, this evidence suggests that positing a specialized visual STM system is not necessary.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Psychology
Publisher: American Psychological Association
ISSN: 0033-2909
Related URLs:
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 11 April 2018
Date of Acceptance: 28 March 2018
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 05:24

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