Visual working memory and saliency independently influence the priority for access to visual awareness

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Both visual working memory (VWM) and visual saliency influence sensory processing, as is evident from research on visual attention and visual awareness. It is generally observed that items that are memorized or salient receive priority in visual search and in the access to awareness. Here we investigate whether these two factors interact and together boost access to visual awareness more than each factor independently. In the present experiment, we manipulated the VWM relevance and saliency of an item through a color memorization task and color uniqueness, respectively. We applied continuous flash suppression (CFS) to suppress items from visual awareness. The color of the suppressed items could either be congruent or incongruent with the memorized color, and either stood out from its surrounding distractors (salient pop out) or not. The item’s priority for visual awareness was measured by measuring the time it took for an item to ‘‘break’’ into awareness. We first show that VWM relevance and visual saliency each shortened the time needed for an item to access awareness. More interestingly, the combined effect of VWM and visual salience was additive; that is, items that were both congruent and salient broke into visual awareness even faster. A race model further suggests that the interaction between these two mechanisms can be explained by statistical facilitation. Thus, VWM and saliency influence the priority to access visual awareness independently.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Vision
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2019


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