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The focus of attention in working memory - from metaphors to mechanisms


Oberauer, Klaus (2013). The focus of attention in working memory - from metaphors to mechanisms. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience:7:673.

Abstract

Many verbal theories describe working memory (WM) in terms of physical metaphors such as information flow or information containers. These metaphors are often useful but can also be misleading. This article contrasts the verbal version of the author’s three-embedded-component theory with a computational implementation of the theory. The analysis focuses on phenomena that have been attributed to the focus of attention in WM. The verbal theory characterizes the focus of attention by a container metaphor, which gives rise to questions such as: how many items fit into the focus? The computational model explains the same phenomena mechanistically through a combination of strengthened bindings between items and their retrieval cues, and priming of these cues. The author applies the computational model to three findings that have been used to argue about how many items can be held in the focus of attention (Oberauer and Bialkova, 2009; Gilchrist and Cowan, 2011; Oberauer and Bialkova, 2011). The modeling results imply a new interpretation of those findings: The different patterns of results across those studies don’t imply different capacity estimates for the focus of attention; they rather reflect to what extent retrieval from WM is parallel or serial.

Abstract

Many verbal theories describe working memory (WM) in terms of physical metaphors such as information flow or information containers. These metaphors are often useful but can also be misleading. This article contrasts the verbal version of the author’s three-embedded-component theory with a computational implementation of the theory. The analysis focuses on phenomena that have been attributed to the focus of attention in WM. The verbal theory characterizes the focus of attention by a container metaphor, which gives rise to questions such as: how many items fit into the focus? The computational model explains the same phenomena mechanistically through a combination of strengthened bindings between items and their retrieval cues, and priming of these cues. The author applies the computational model to three findings that have been used to argue about how many items can be held in the focus of attention (Oberauer and Bialkova, 2009; Gilchrist and Cowan, 2011; Oberauer and Bialkova, 2011). The modeling results imply a new interpretation of those findings: The different patterns of results across those studies don’t imply different capacity estimates for the focus of attention; they rather reflect to what extent retrieval from WM is parallel or serial.

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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:2013
Deposited On:29 Oct 2013 08:06
Last Modified:07 Dec 2017 23:11
Publisher:Frontiers Research Foundation
ISSN:1662-5161
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fnhum.2013.00673
PubMed ID:24146644

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