Searching for serial refreshing in working memory: Using response times to track the content of the focus of attention over time

Evie Vergauwe, Kyle O Hardman, Jeffrey N Rouder, Emily Roemer, Sara McAllaster, Nelson Cowan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

One popular idea is that, to support the maintenance of a set of elements over brief periods of time, the focus of attention rotates among the different elements, thereby serially refreshing the content of working memory (WM). In the research reported here, probe letters were presented between to-be-remembered letters, and response times to these probes were used to infer the status of the different items in WM. If the focus of attention cycles from one item to the next, its content should be different at different points in time, and this should be reflected in a change in the response time patterns over time. Across a set of four experiments, we demonstrated a striking pattern of invariance in the response time patterns over time, suggesting either that the content of the focus of attention did not change over time or that response times cannot be used to infer the content of the focus of attention. We discuss how this pattern constrains models of WM, attention, and human information processing.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Early online date11 Apr 2016
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 11 Apr 2016

Keywords

  • working memory
  • focus of attention
  • refreshing
  • serial refreshing

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