Factorial comparison of working memory models

Ronald van den Berg, Edward Awh, Wei Ji Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Three questions have been prominent in the study of visual working memory limitations: (a) What is the nature of mnemonic precision (e.g., quantized or continuous)? (b) How many items are remembered? (c) To what extent do spatial binding errors account for working memory failures? Modeling studies have typically focused on comparing possible answers to a single one of these questions, even though the result of such a comparison might depend on the assumed answers to both others. Here, we consider every possible combination of previously proposed answers to the individual questions. Each model is then a point in a 3-factor model space containing a total of 32 models, of which only 6 have been tested previously. We compare all models on data from 10 delayed-estimation experiments from 6 laboratories (for a total of 164 subjects and 131,452 trials). Consistently across experiments, we find that (a) mnemonic precision is not quantized but continuous and not equal but variable across items and trials; (b) the number of remembered items is likely to be variable across trials, with a mean of 6.4 in the best model (median across subjects); (c) spatial binding errors occur but explain only a small fraction of responses (16.5% at set size 8 in the best model). We find strong evidence against all 6 documented models. Our results demonstrate the value of factorial model comparison in working memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)124-149
Number of pages26
JournalPsychological Review
Volume121
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2014

Keywords

  • Capacity
  • Model comparison
  • Resource models
  • Short-term memory
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)

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