In three experiments we manipulated the resolution of novel complex objects in visual working memory (WM) by changing task demands. Previous studies that investigated the trade-off between quantity and resolution in visual WM yielded mixed results for simple familiar stimuli. We used the contralateral delay activity as an electrophysiological marker to directly track the deployment of visual WM resources while participants preformed a change-detection task. Across three experiments we presented the same novel complex items but changed the task demands. In Experiment 1 we induced a medium resolution task by using change trials in which a random polygon changed to a different type of polygon and replicated previous findings showing that novel complex objects are represented with higher resolution relative to simple familiar objects. In Experiment 2 we induced a low resolution task that required distinguishing between polygons and other types of stimulus categories, but we failed in finding a corresponding decrease in the resolution of the represented item. Finally, in Experiment 3 we induced a high resolution task that required discriminating between highly similar polygons with somewhat different contours. This time, we observed an increase in the item's resolution. Our findings indicate that the resolution for novel complex objects can be increased but not decreased according to task demands, suggesting that minimal resolution is required in order to maintain these items in visual WM. These findings support studies claiming that capacity and resolution in visual WM reflect different mechanisms.
- Contralateral delayed activity
- Visual working memory