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The Role of Uncertainty in the Constraint of Visual Attention and Visual Short-term Memory Open Access

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Three sets of experiments were conducted to investigate the role of uncertainty in the use of object representations in the constraint of visual attention and visual short-term memory. In the first set of experiments, the impact of identity uncertainty, or uncertainty as to what the next target would be (attentional set uncertainty) was investigated. It was observed that object representations constrained attention only when there was a sufficient amount of attentional set uncertainty. These results suggest that non-spatial forms of uncertainty elicit object-based effects. Second, temporal uncertainty, uncertainty as to when the target and flankers would appear, was investigated. While object-based effects were not observed, these results suggest that different forms of uncertainty may be weighted differently, and it is possible that temporal uncertainty is not weighted high enough to elicit these effects. Third, the role of object representations in the constraint of visual short-term memory was investigated. It was observed that items on a different object are less likely to enter memory and, if they are held in visual short-term memory, they are not held as precisely as items found on the attended object (same object). These combined results suggest that while both spatial and non-spatial forms of uncertainty can constrain visual attention and visual short-term memory, some forms of uncertainty may not be weighted high enough to elicit these effects.

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