Visual mental image generation does not overlap with visual short-term memory: a dual-task interference study

Gregoire Borst (Lead / Corresponding author), Elaine Niven, Robert H. Logie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Citations (Scopus)


Visual mental imagery and working memory are often assumed to play similar roles in high-order functions, but little is known of their functional relationship. In this study, we investigated whether similar cognitive processes are involved in the generation of visual mental images, in short-term retention of those mental images, and in short- term retention of visual information. Participants encoded and recalled visually or aurally presented sequences of letters under two interference conditions: spatial tapping or irrelevant visual input (IVI). In Experiment 1, spatial tapping selectively interfered with the retention of sequences of letters when participants generated visual mental images from aural presentation of the letter names and when the letters were presented visually. In Experiment 2, encoding of the sequences was disrupted by both interference tasks. However, in Experiment 3, IVI interfered with the generation of the mental images, but not with their retention, whereas spatial tapping was more disruptive during retention than during encoding. Results suggest that the temporary retention of visual mental images and of visual information may be supported by the same visual short-term memory store but that this store is not involved in image generation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)360-372
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Early online date12 Oct 2011
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012


  • Working memory
  • Visual mental imagery
  • Visual cache
  • Visual buffer


Dive into the research topics of 'Visual mental image generation does not overlap with visual short-term memory: a dual-task interference study'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this