Attentional mechanisms in perception can operate over locations, features, or objects. However, people direct attention not only towards information in the external world, but also to information maintained in working memory. To what extent do perception and memory draw on similar selection properties? Here we examined whether principles of object-based attention can also hold true in visual working memory. Experiment 1 examined whether object structure guides selection independently of spatial distance. In a memory updating task, participants encoded two rectangular bars with colored ends before updating two colors during maintenance. Memory updates were faster for two equidistant colors on the same object than on different objects. Experiment 2 examined whether selection of a single object feature spreads to other features within the same object. Participants memorized two sequentially presented Gabors, and a retro-cue indicated which object and feature dimension (color or orientation) would be most relevant to the memory test. We found stronger effects of object selection than feature selection: accuracy was higher for the uncued feature in the same object than the cued feature in the other object. Together these findings demonstrate effects of object-based attention on visual working memory, at least when object-based representations are encouraged, and suggest shared attentional mechanisms across perception and memory.
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