Contrast and strength of visual memory and imagery differentially affect visual perception

Elyana Saad, Juha Silvanto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
141 Downloads (Pure)


Visual short-term memory (VSTM) and visual imagery have been shown to modulate visual perception. However, how the subjective experience of VSTM/imagery and its contrast modulate this process has not been investigated. We addressed this issue by asking participants to detect brief masked targets while they were engaged either in VSTM or visual imagery. Subjective experience of memory/imagery (strength scale), and the visual contrast of the memory/mental image (contrast scale) were assessed on a trial-by-trial basis. For both VSTM and imagery, contrast of the memory/mental image was positively associated with reporting target presence. Consequently, at the sensory level, both VSTM and imagery facilitated visual perception. However, subjective strength of VSTM was positively associated with visual detection whereas the opposite pattern was found for imagery. Thus the relationship between subjective strength of memory/imagery and visual detection are qualitatively different for VSTM and visual imagery, although their impact at the sensory level appears similar. Our results furthermore demonstrate that imagery and VSTM are partly dissociable processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere84827
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalPloS one
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 20 Dec 2013
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


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