What’s “up”? Working memory contents can bias orientation processing, Vision Res, (76), 46-55.
We explored the interaction between the processing of a low-level visual feature such as orientation and the contents of working memory (WM). In a first experiment, participants memorized the orientation of a Gabor patch and performed two subsequent orientation discriminations during the retention interval. The WM stimulus exerted a consistent repulsive effect on the discrimination judgments: participants were more likely to report that the discrimination stimulus was rotated clockwise compared to the oblique after being presented with a stimulus that was tilted anti-clockwise from the oblique. A control condition where participants attended to the Gabor patch but did not memorize it, showed a much reduced effect. The repulsive effect was stable across the two discriminations in the memory condition, but not in the control condition, where it decayed at the second discrimination. In a second experiment, we showed that the greater interference observed in the WM condition cannot be explained by a difference in cognitive demands between the WM and the control condition. We conclude that WM contents can bias perception: the effect of WM interference is of a visual nature, can last over delays of several seconds and is not disrupted by the processing of intervening visual stimuli during the retention period.