Memory-Based Attentional Guidance: A Window to the Relationship between Working Memory and Attention
Attention, the cognitive means by which we prioritize the processing of a subset of information, is necessary for operating efficiently and effectively in the world. Thus, a critical theoretical question is how information is selected. In the visual domain, working memory (WM)—which refers to the short-term maintenance and manipulation of information that is no longer accessible by the senses—has been highlighted as an important determinant of what is selected by visual attention. Furthermore, although WM and attention have traditionally been conceived as separate cognitive constructs, an abundance of behavioral and neural evidence indicates that these two domains are in fact intertwined and overlapping. The aim of this dissertation is to better understand the nature of WM and attention, primarily through the phenomenon of memory-based attentional guidance, whereby the active maintenance of items in visual WM reliably biases the deployment of attention to memory-matching items in the visual environment. The research presented here employs a combination of behavioral, functional imaging, and computational modeling techniques that address: (1) WM guidance effects with respect to the traditional dichotomy of top-down versus bottom-up attentional control; (2) under what circumstances the contents of WM impact visual attention; and (3) the broader hypothesis of a predictive and competitive interaction between WM and attention. Collectively, these empirical findings reveal the importance of WM as a distinct factor in attentional control and support current models of multiple-state WM, which may have broader implications for how we select and maintain information.
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