Influences of prior knowledge and recent history on visual working memory

AbstractExisting knowledge shapes and distorts our memories, serving as a prior for newly encoded information. Here, we investigate the role of stable long-term priors (e.g. categorical knowledge) in conjunction with priors arising from recently encountered information (e.g. 'serial dependence') in visual working memory for color. We use an iterated reproduction paradigm to allow a model-free assessment of the role of such priors. In Experiment 1, we find that participants' reports reliably converge to certain areas of color space, but that this convergence is largely distinct for different individuals, suggesting responses are biased by more than just shared category knowledge. In Experiment 2, we explicitly manipulate trial n-1 and find recent history plays a major role in participants' reports. Thus, we find that both global prior knowledge and recent trial information have biasing influences on visual working memory, demonstrating an important role for both short- and long-term priors in actively maintained information.

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