Human observers show remarkable efficiency in statistical estimation; they are able, for instance, to estimate the mean size of visual objects, even if their number exceeds the capacity limits of focused attention. This ability has been understood as the result of a distinct mode of attention, i.e. distributed attention. Compared to the focused attention mode, working memory representations under distributed attention are proposed to be more compressed, leading to reduced working memory loads. An alternate proposal is that distributed attention uses less structured, feature-level representations. These would fill up working memory (WM) more, even when target set size is low. Using event-related potentials, we compared WM loading in a typical distributed attention task (mean size estimation) to that in a corresponding focused attention task (object recognition), using a measure called contralateral delay activity (CDA). Participants performed both tasks on 2, 4, or 8 different-sized target disks. In the recognition task, CDA amplitude increased with set size; notably, however, in the mean estimation task the CDA amplitude was high regardless of set size. In particular for set-size 2, the amplitude was higher in the mean estimation task than in the recognition task. The result showed that the task involves full WM loading even with a low target set size. This suggests that in the distributed attention mode, representations are not compressed, but rather less structured than under focused attention conditions.