Working Memory Enhances Visual Perception: Evidence From Signal Detection Analysis

D Soto, A Wriglesworth, A Bahrami-Balani, Glyn Humphreys

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

47 Citations (Scopus)


We show that perceptual sensitivity to Visual stimuli can be modulated by matches between the contents of working memory (WM) and stimuli in the Visual field. Observers were presented with an object cue (to hold in WM or to merely attend) and subsequently had to identify a brief target presented within a colored shape. The cue could be re-presented in the display, where it surrounded either the target (oil valid trials) or a distractor (on invalid trials). Perceptual identification of the target, as, indexed by A', was enhanced on valid relative to invalid trials but only when the cue was kept in WM. There was minimal effect of the cue when it was merely attended and not kept in WM. Verbal cites were as effective as visual cites at modulating perceptual identification, and the effects were independent of the effects of target saliency. Matches to the contents of WM influenced perceptual sensitivity even tinder conditions that minimized competition for selecting the target. WM Cites were also effective when targets were less likely to fall in a repeated WM stimulus than in other stimuli in the search display. There were no effects of WM on decisional criteria, in contrast to sensitivity. The findings suggest that reentrant feedback from WM can affect early stages of perceptual processing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-456
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2010


  • working memory
  • perception
  • signal detection
  • attention


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