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The eyes don’t have it: Eye movements are unlikely to reflect refreshing in working memory


Loaiza, Vanessa M; Souza, Alessandra S (2022). The eyes don’t have it: Eye movements are unlikely to reflect refreshing in working memory. PLoS ONE, 17(7):e0271116.

Abstract

There is a growing interest in specifying the mechanisms underlying refreshing, i.e., the use of attention to keep working memory (WM) contents accessible. Here, we examined whether participants’ visual fixations during the retention interval of a WM task indicate the current focus of internal attention, thereby serving as an online measure of refreshing. Eye movements were recorded while participants studied and maintained an array of colored dots followed by probed recall of one (Experiments 1A and 1B) or all (Experiment 2) of the memoranda via a continuous color wheel. Experiments 1A and 2 entailed an unfilled retention interval in which refreshing is assumed to occur spontaneously, and Experiment 1B entailed a retention interval embedded with cues prompting the sequential refreshment of a subset of the memoranda. During the retention interval, fixations revisited the locations occupied by the memoranda, consistent with a looking-at-nothing phenomenon in WM, but the pattern was only evident when placeholders were onscreen in Experiment 2, indicating that most of these fixations may largely reflect random gaze. Furthermore, spontaneous fixations did not predict recall precision (Experiments 1A and 2), even when ensuring that they did not reflect random gaze (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1B, refreshing cues increased fixations to the eventually tested target and predicted better recall precision, which interacted with an overall benefit of target fixations, such that the benefit of fixations decreased as the number of refreshing cues increased. Thus, fixations under spontaneous conditions had no credible effect on recall precision, whereas the beneficial effect of fixations under instructed refreshing conditions may indicate situations in which cues were disregarded. Consequently, we conclude that eye movements do not seem suitable as an online measure of refreshing.

Abstract

There is a growing interest in specifying the mechanisms underlying refreshing, i.e., the use of attention to keep working memory (WM) contents accessible. Here, we examined whether participants’ visual fixations during the retention interval of a WM task indicate the current focus of internal attention, thereby serving as an online measure of refreshing. Eye movements were recorded while participants studied and maintained an array of colored dots followed by probed recall of one (Experiments 1A and 1B) or all (Experiment 2) of the memoranda via a continuous color wheel. Experiments 1A and 2 entailed an unfilled retention interval in which refreshing is assumed to occur spontaneously, and Experiment 1B entailed a retention interval embedded with cues prompting the sequential refreshment of a subset of the memoranda. During the retention interval, fixations revisited the locations occupied by the memoranda, consistent with a looking-at-nothing phenomenon in WM, but the pattern was only evident when placeholders were onscreen in Experiment 2, indicating that most of these fixations may largely reflect random gaze. Furthermore, spontaneous fixations did not predict recall precision (Experiments 1A and 2), even when ensuring that they did not reflect random gaze (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1B, refreshing cues increased fixations to the eventually tested target and predicted better recall precision, which interacted with an overall benefit of target fixations, such that the benefit of fixations decreased as the number of refreshing cues increased. Thus, fixations under spontaneous conditions had no credible effect on recall precision, whereas the beneficial effect of fixations under instructed refreshing conditions may indicate situations in which cues were disregarded. Consequently, we conclude that eye movements do not seem suitable as an online measure of refreshing.

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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
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:14 July 2022
Deposited On:19 Jan 2023 11:00
Last Modified:29 Mar 2024 02:38
Publisher:Public Library of Science (PLoS)
ISSN:1932-6203
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:Publisher DOI. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0271116
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)