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Benefits and pitfalls of data compression in visual working memory

Abstract : Data compression in memory is a cognitive process allowing participants to cope with complexity to reduce information load. However, previous studies have not yet considered the hypothesis that this process could also lead to over-simplifying information due to haphazard amplification of the compression process itself. For instance, we could expect that the over-regularized features of a visual scene could produce false recognition of patterns, not because of storage capacity limits but because of an errant compression process. To prompt memory compression in our participants, we used multielement visual displays for which the underlying information varied in compressibility. The compressibility of our material could vary depending on the number of common features between the multi-dimensional objects in the displays. We measured both accuracy and response times by probing memory representations with probes that we hypothesized could modify the participants’ representations. We confirm that more compressible information facilitates performance, but a more novel finding is that compression can produce both typical memory errors and lengthened response times. Our findings provide clearer evidence of the forms of compression that participants carry out.
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Contributor : Laura Lazartigues <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, July 13, 2021 - 2:20:02 PM
Last modification on : Wednesday, July 14, 2021 - 3:27:31 AM




Laura Lazartigues, Frédéric Lavigne, Carlos Aguilar, Nelson Cowan, Fabien Mathy. Benefits and pitfalls of data compression in visual working memory. Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, Springer Verlag, 2021, ⟨10.3758/s13414-021-02333-x⟩. ⟨hal-03285561⟩



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