The Role of Visual Working Memory in Attentive Tracking of Unique Objects

Tal Makovski, Yuhong V Jiang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    64 Scopus citations


    When tracking moving objects in space humans usually attend to the objects' spatial locations and update this information over time. To what extent do surface features assist attentive tracking? In this study we asked participants to track identical or uniquely colored objects. Tracking was enhanced when objects were unique in color. The benefit was greater when the distance between distractors and targets was smaller, but was eliminated when the objects changed colors 1 to 4 times per second, even though at any instant they were always uniquely colored. In addition, tracking uniquely colored objects impaired a secondary color-memory task more than tracking identical objects, and holding several colors in working memory eliminated the advantage of tracking uniquely colored objects. Contrary to previous studies showing that feature information is poorly retained during tracking, these findings indicate that surface properties are stored in visual working memory to facilitate tracking performance.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1687-1697
    Number of pages11
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
    Issue number6
    StatePublished - Dec 2009


    • attentive tracking
    • multiple-object tracking
    • visual working memory


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