Visual Working Memory as Decision Making: Compensation for Memory Uncertainty in Reach Planning


Limitations in visual working memory (VWM) have been extensively studied in psychophysical tasks, but not well understood in terms of how memory limits translate to performance in more natural domains. In particular, the current body of literature lacks a detailed account of how the physical consequences and costs of memory error influence what we encode in visual memory, and how we act on the basis of remembered information. We examined whether externally-imposed monetary costs influence behavior in a task that involves motor planning based on information recalled from VWM. Our results indicate that subjects accounted for the uncertainty in their visual memory, showing a significant difference in their motor planning when monetary costs were imposed for memory errors. However, our findings indicate that subjects’ memory representations per se were not biased by the imposed costs, but rather subjects adopted a near-optimal post-mnemonic decision strategy.

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