Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Human memory benefits from information clustering, which can be accomplished by chunking. Chunking typically relies on expertise and strategy, and it is unknown whether perceptual clustering over time, through temporal integration, can also enhance working memory. The current study examined the attentional and working memory costs of temporal integration of successive target stimulus pairs embedded in rapid serial visual presentation. ERPs were measured as a function of behavioral reports: One target, two separate targets, or two targets reported as a single integrated target. N2pc amplitude, reflecting attentional processing, depended on the actual number of successive targets. The memory-related CDA and P3 components instead depended on the perceived number of targets irrespective of their actual succession. The report of two separate targets was associated with elevated amplitude, whereas integrated as well as actual single targets exhibited lower amplitude. Temporal integration thus provided an efficient means of processing sensory input, offloading working memory so that the features of two targets were consolidated and maintained at a cost similar to that of a single target.