The question of how a disordered material's microstructure translates into macroscopic mechanical response is central to understanding and designing materials like pastes, foams and metallic glasses. Here, we examine a 2D soft jammed material under cyclic shear, imaging the structure of ∼5 × 104 particles. Below a certain strain amplitude, the structure becomes conserved at long times, while above, it continually rearranges. We identify the boundary between these regimes as a yield strain, defined without rheological measurement. Its value is consistent with a simultaneous but independent measurement of yielding by stress-controlled bulk rheometry. While there are virtually no irreversible rearrangements in the steady state below yielding, we find a largely stable population of plastic rearrangements that are reversed with each cycle. These results point to a microscopic view of mechanical properties under cyclic deformation.



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