Capacity and selection in immersive visual working memory following naturalistic object disappearance.
Chawoush B., Draschkow D., van Ede F.
Visual working memory-holding past visual information in mind for upcoming behavior-is commonly studied following the abrupt removal of visual objects from static two-dimensional (2D) displays. In everyday life, visual objects do not typically vanish from the environment in front of us. Rather, visual objects tend to enter working memory following self or object motion: disappearing from view gradually and changing the spatial relation between memoranda and observer. Here, we used virtual reality (VR) to investigate whether two classic findings from visual working memory research-a capacity of around three objects and the reliance on space for object selection-generalize to more naturalistic modes of object disappearance. Our static reference condition mimicked traditional laboratory tasks whereby visual objects were held static in front of the participant and removed from view abruptly. In our critical flow condition, the same visual objects flowed by participants, disappearing from view gradually and behind the observer. We considered visual working memory performance and capacity, as well as space-based mnemonic selection, indexed by directional biases in gaze. Despite vastly distinct modes of object disappearance and altered spatial relations between memoranda and observer, we found comparable capacity and comparable gaze signatures of space-based mnemonic selection. This finding reveals how classic findings from visual working memory research generalize to immersive situations with more naturalistic modes of object disappearance and with dynamic spatial relations between memoranda and observer.