Manipulations of attention dissociate fragile visual short-term memory from visual working memory

Annelinde R E Vandenbroucke, Ilja G Sligte, Victor A F Lamme

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)


People often rely on information that is no longer in view, but maintained in visual short-term memory (VSTM). Traditionally, VSTM is thought to operate on either a short time-scale with high capacity - iconic memory - or a long time scale with small capacity - visual working memory. Recent research suggests that in addition, an intermediate stage of memory in between iconic memory and visual working memory exists. This intermediate stage has a large capacity and a lifetime of several seconds, but is easily overwritten by new stimulation. We therefore termed it fragile VSTM. In previous studies, fragile VSTM has been dissociated from iconic memory by the characteristics of the memory trace. In the present study, we dissociated fragile VSTM from visual working memory by showing a differentiation in their dependency on attention. A decrease in attention during presentation of the stimulus array greatly reduced the capacity of visual working memory, while this had only a small effect on the capacity of fragile VSTM. We conclude that fragile VSTM is a separate memory store from visual working memory. Thus, a tripartite division of VSTM appears to be in place, comprising iconic memory, fragile VSTM and visual working memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1559-68
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - May 2011

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Analysis of Variance
  • Attention
  • Cues
  • Discrimination (Psychology)
  • Field Dependence-Independence
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Perceptual Masking
  • Reference Values
  • Time Factors


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