What is it about?

Our complex visual worlds contain too much information for us to process everything that we see at once. To solve this problem, we adopt attentional goals that define which parts of the world should be processed first. Where are these goals stored in our minds? Here we show that one memory system—activated long-term memory—does NOT play this role. This research builds on past demonstrations that attentional goals can be maintained in episodic and semantic long-term memory, raising questions about how these memory systems co-ordinate to help regulate the way our minds and brains make sense of the visual world.

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Why is it important?

We know that what we are looking for can capture attention: when looking for your friend in a blue shirt, other BLUE items will capture your attention, but items that are NOT BLUE will not capture your attention. But while we know this ability exists, we do not yet have an understanding of which memory systems support this kind of attentional capture. This work investigates one specific memory system—activated long-term memory—and the evidence suggests this memory system does not support attentional control settings.


This paper is the culmination of Lindsay Plater's 2-year Master's degree. While the terminology might seem complicated, we used Dr. Oberauer's modified Sternberg task to investigate whether attentional goals (i.e., attentional control settings) are maintained by activated long-term memory. Our conclusion is that this is not the case. Always happy to chat! Feel free to e-mail me at lplater@uoguelph.ca with questions or comments.

Lindsay Plater
University of Guelph

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: No role for activated long-term memory in attentional control settings., Journal of Experimental Psychology General, June 2019, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/xge0000642.
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