The effect of object distinctiveness on object-location binding in visual working memory
Visual working memory (VWM) is prone to interference from individual items competing for its limited capacity. At least two sources of such interference can be described: poor between-item distinctiveness (an inability to discriminate between items sharing common features) and imperfect binding (a problem with determining which of the remembered features belonged to which object). Here we investigate the links between distinctiveness and binding in VWM. In Experiment 1, we tested how object distinctiveness affects object recognition memory and memory for object-location conjunctions. In Experiment 2, we compared object-location binding under high and low distinctiveness with memory for locations when binding is not required. Object recognition decreased with low object distinctiveness, while the precision and the number of stored locations did not depend on either distinctiveness or the need for binding. However, the proportion of object-location swaps increased as object distinctiveness decreased, which might be caused by forgetting of objects. In general, our data support the idea of relatively independent object and location representations in VWM, and the independence of memory distinction and binding.