Looking inwards and back: realtime monitoring of visual working memory

September 30, 2016

Confidence in our memories is influenced by many factors, including beliefs about the perceptibility or memorability of certain kinds of objects and events, as well as knowledge about our skill sets, habits, and experiences. Notoriously, our knowledge and beliefs about memory can lead us astray, causing us to be overly confident in eyewitness testimony or to overestimate the frequency of recent experiences. Here, using visual working memory as a case study, we stripped away all these potentially misleading cues, requiring observers to make confidence judgments by directly assessing the quality of their memory representations. We show that individuals can monitor the status of information in working memory as it degrades over time. Our findings suggest that people have access to information reflecting the existence and quality of their working memories, and furthermore, that they can use this information to guide their behavior.