Out now: New paper on temporal reference frames in visual working memory

We are happy to announce Anna’s first paper coming out of her work on temporal reference frames in visual working memory, which has just appeared in Cognition.

Heuer, A. & Rolfs, M. (2021). Incidental encoding of visual information in temporal reference frames in working memory. Cognition207:104526, 1-9. [pdf]

Spatial and temporal properties structure our visual experience, but our understanding of the role of temporal characteristics for the short-term retention of visual information lags far behind our understanding of the role of space. This is our first paper resulting from a project on temporal information in visual working memory, with which we aim to reduce this gap. 

In five experiments, we show that both the spatial and temporal properties of visual events are incidentally encoded along with to-be-remembered information, providing reference frames for storage and retrieval. No comparable incidental encoding occurred for other task-irrelevant feature dimensions, indicating that space and time are preferred over other context dimensions. The weighting of spatial and temporal reference frames depended on inter-item spacings in space and time, favouring the domain, in which items are more widely separated. Thus, under certain conditions, temporal context can be even more important than spatial context. In addition, the weights assigned to spatial and temporal information differed reliably between individuals: Individual weightings were stable across time, possibly indicating trait-like preferences for coding in the spatial or temporal domain. 

These findings suggest that time serves as fundamental a function in visual working memory as space. We are excited to find out more in follow-up work.