Memory Fidelity Reveals Qualitative Changes in Interactions Between Items in Visual Working Memory

Zachary Lively, Maria M. Robinson, Aaron S. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Memory for objects in a display sometimes reveals attraction—the objects are remembered as more similar to one another than they actually were—and sometimes reveals repulsion—the objects are remembered as more different from one another. The conditions that lead to these opposing memory biases are poorly understood; there is no theoretical framework that explains these contrasting dynamics. In three experiments (each N = 30 adults), we demonstrate that memory fidelity provides a unifying dimension that accommodates the existence of both types of visual working memory interactions. We show that either attraction or repulsion can arise simply as a function of manipulations of memory fidelity. We also demonstrate that subjective ratings of fidelity predict the presence of attraction or repulsion on a trial-by-trial basis. We discuss how these results bear on computational models of visual working memory and contextualize these results within the literature of attraction and repulsion effects in long-term memory and perception.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1426-1441
Number of pages16
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2021


  • attraction effects
  • ecological models of memory
  • ensemble statistics
  • interactions between memory representations
  • memory bias
  • memory strength
  • open data
  • open materials
  • preregistered
  • repulsion effects
  • visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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