Working memory is corrupted by strategic changes in search templates

Garry Kong, Jessica Meehan, Daryl Fougnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When searching for a specific object, we often form an image of the target, which we use as a search template. This template is thought to be maintained in working memory, primarily because of evidence that the contents of working memory influences search behavior. However, it is unknown whether this interaction applies in both directions. Here, we show that changes in search templates influence working memory. Participants were asked to remember the orientation of a line that changed every trial, and on some trials (75%) search for that orientation, but on remaining trials recall the orientation. Critically, we manipulated the target template by introducing a predictable context-distractors in the visual search task were always counterclockwise (or clockwise) from the search target. The predictable context produced a large bias in search. Importantly, we also found a similar bias in orientation memory reports, demonstrating that working memory and target templates were not held as completely separate, isolated representations. However, the memory bias was considerably smaller than the search bias, suggesting that, although there is a common source, the two may not be driven by a single, shared process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of vision
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020


  • Attention
  • Visual search
  • Visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology
  • Sensory Systems


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