Rerko Laura, Lin Hsuan-Yu, Oberauer Klaus (2014), Spatial transposition gradients in visual working memory, in Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
, 67, 3-15.
Oberauer Klaus, Hein Laura (2012), Attention to information in working memory, in Current Directions in Psychological Science
, 21(3), 164-169.
Rerko Laura, Oberauer Klaus, Focused, unfocused, and de-focused information in working memory, in Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Working memory is a system of limited capacity that holds a small number of mental representations available for ongoing processing. As such, working memory is the blackboard of thought. Processing information in working memory involves selective access to some of its contents; this is the function of a focus of attention directed at working-memory contents. Building on previous experiments that provide evidence for the existence of a focus of attention in working memory, the proposed project asks how attention in working memory and attention to perceptual stimuli are related - do they operate independently or draw on the same cognitive mechanisms? To investigate this question, we will use the new interruption paradigm: People work on a continuous working-memory updating task demanding attention to one item in working memory at a time, and are occasionally interrupted by a task demanding attention to a perceptual stimulus. We measure whether after the interruption the item in working memory last processed before the interruption is still in the focus of attention - if it is, we conclude that the interruption task does not engage the same attentional mechanism as the focus of attention in working memory. The planned project has 4 parts. Part A investigates features of the interruption task that determine whether it pulls away attention from working memory contents. Part B aims at guiding the focus of attention in working memory to one particular representation by manipulating the features of the interruption stimulus. Part C investigates whether longer series of interruption operations can pull away the focus from the last used content of working memory under conditions in which a single brief interruption did not succeed in doing so (in Part A). Part D will consist of experiments attempting to guide visual attention by manipulating the content of the focus of attention in working memory at the point of interruption by a visual task. The project will provide new insights into the mechanisms of attentional selection directed at perceptual input and at memory representations. In addition, it will provide knowledge about the circumstances under which a train of thought is interrupted by an environmental demand, and how well the mind can recover from such interruptions.