Lay summary

Working memory is a system dedicated to the maintenance of information in the context of concurrent processing. Within this system, two mechanisms were described as responsible for the maintenance of verbal information. Some models proposed a mechanism specialized for the verbal domain, articulatory rehearsal (Baddeley, 1986), whereas others introduced a general attention-based mechanism, attentional refreshing (Barrouillet, & Camos, 2007; Cowan, 1999, 2005; Johnson, 1992). Recently, these two mechanisms were shown to be independent in verbal working memory (Camos, Lagner, & Barrouillet, 2009; Camos, Mora, & Oberauer, 2011; Camos, Portrat, & Oberauer, submitted). Whereas articulatory rehearsal was largely studied both in short-term and working memory, attentional refreshing was less explored. Thus, refreshing is mainly defined by opposition to rehearsal, but it still unknown how this mechanism proceeds and on which types of representation. The aim of this project is then to understand and better described this major mechanism of the human cognition.

In the first part of the project, we will develop a new paradigm to assess the type of cues used by refreshing to reactivate the memory traces, and to evaluate the temporal course of these refreshment activities. In the second part, we will question the fact that attentional refreshing may rely on the depth of processing of the memoranda, as we suggested in the extended TBRS model (Camos et al., 2009).

Understanding the mechanism that counteracts forgetting in short-term and working memory had important theoretical and practical implications. It should increase our understanding of working memory functioning, and allow developing more precise models of working memory. In a long-term perspective, it should help building appropriate scaffolding devices for children and adults with short-term memory deficits.