Visual working memory (VWM) allows for maintaining behaviorally relevant information available after termination of its visual input. The maintenance of visual information in VWM has been shown to affect the processing of concurrent visual input. For instance, it has been demonstrated that visual input gains preferential access to consciousness when it matches the content of VWM. Specifically, colored targets that are initially interocularly suppressed, are released from suppression faster when a concurrently memorized stimulus is of the same color category. In order to investigate the nature of the interaction between visual representations elicited by VWM and visual representations elicited by visual input, we modelled the perceptual processes leading up to this difference in suppression durations. We replicated the VWM modulation of suppression durations, and fitted sequential sampling models (linear ballistic accumulators) to the response time data. Model comparisons revealed that the data was best explained by a decrease in threshold for visual input that matches the content of VWM. That is, when visual input matches the content of VWM, it requires less (as opposed to faster) evidence accumulation to be released from interocular suppression. Converging evidence was obtained by fitting similar sequential sampling models (shifted Wald model) to a published dataset (of Gayet, Van der Stigchel, & Paffen, 2013). We discuss our findings in light of a Pre-activation hypothesis, proposing that matching visual input taps into the same neural substrate that is already activated by a representation concurrently maintained in VWM, thereby reducing its threshold for reaching conscious access.
Gayet, S., van Maanen, L., Heilbron, M., Paffen, C. L. E., Van der Stigchel, S. (2016). Visual input that matches the content of visual working memory requires less (not faster) evidence sampling to reach conscious access. Journal of Vision.