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In search of the focus of attention in working memory: 13 years of the retro-cue effect


Souza, Alessandra S; Oberauer, Klaus (2016). In search of the focus of attention in working memory: 13 years of the retro-cue effect. Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics, 78(7):1839-1860.

Abstract

The concept of attention has a prominent place in cognitive psychology. Attention can be directed not only to perceptual information, but also to information in working memory (WM). Evidence for an internal focus of attention has come from the retro-cue effect: Performance in tests of visual WM is improved when attention is guided to the test-relevant contents of WM ahead of testing them. The retro-cue paradigm has served as a test bed to empirically investigate the functions and limits of the focus of attention in WM. In this article, we review the growing body of (behavioral) studies on the retro-cue effect. We evaluate the degrees of experimental support for six hypotheses about what causes the retro-cue effect: (1) Attention protects representations from decay, (2) attention prioritizes the selected WM contents for comparison with a probe display, (3) attended representations are strengthened in WM, (4) not-attended representations are removed from WM, (5) a retro-cue to the retrieval target provides a head start for its retrieval before decision making, and (6) attention protects the selected representation from perceptual interference. The extant evidence provides support for the last four of these hypotheses.

Abstract

The concept of attention has a prominent place in cognitive psychology. Attention can be directed not only to perceptual information, but also to information in working memory (WM). Evidence for an internal focus of attention has come from the retro-cue effect: Performance in tests of visual WM is improved when attention is guided to the test-relevant contents of WM ahead of testing them. The retro-cue paradigm has served as a test bed to empirically investigate the functions and limits of the focus of attention in WM. In this article, we review the growing body of (behavioral) studies on the retro-cue effect. We evaluate the degrees of experimental support for six hypotheses about what causes the retro-cue effect: (1) Attention protects representations from decay, (2) attention prioritizes the selected WM contents for comparison with a probe display, (3) attended representations are strengthened in WM, (4) not-attended representations are removed from WM, (5) a retro-cue to the retrieval target provides a head start for its retrieval before decision making, and (6) attention protects the selected representation from perceptual interference. The extant evidence provides support for the last four of these hypotheses.

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16 citations in Web of Science®
15 citations in Scopus®
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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Language:English
Date:20 April 2016
Deposited On:27 Apr 2016 13:42
Last Modified:07 Sep 2016 01:03
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1943-3921
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-016-1108-5
PubMed ID:27098647

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