The effects of delay duration on visual working memory for orientation

Hongsup Shin, Qijia Zou, Wei Ji Ma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We used a delayed-estimation paradigm to characterize the joint effects of set size (one, two, four, or six) and delay duration (1, 2, 3, or 6 s) on visual working memory for orientation. We conducted two experiments: one with delay durations blocked, another with delay durations interleaved. As dependent variables, we examined four model-free metrics of dispersion as well as precision estimates in four simple models. We tested for effects of delay time using analyses of variance, linear regressions, and nested model comparisons. We found significant effects of set size and delay duration on both model-free and model-based measures of dispersion. However, the effect of delay duration was much weaker than that of set size, dependent on the analysis method, and apparent in only a minority of subjects. The highest forgetting slope found in either experiment at any set size was a modest 1.14°/s. As secondary results, we found a low rate of nontarget reports, and significant estimation biases towards oblique orientations (but no dependence of their magnitude on either set size or delay duration). Relative stability of working memory even at higher set sizes is consistent with earlier results for motion direction and spatial frequency. We compare with a recent study that performed a very similar experiment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-24
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number14
StatePublished - Dec 1 2017


  • Maintenance
  • Orientation
  • Precision
  • Visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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