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Myriam Sbeiti, Daryl Fougnie, Timothy Brady; Reconsidering the focus of attention: Cued items contain more information but are not more accessible. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):874. doi: 10.1167/17.10.874.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The focus of attention (FOA) is a special state within working memory in which items are assumed to be directly accessible. Here, we gave participants two chances to report the color of a stimulus stored in working memory. The second report is meaningful only if information is not fully retrieved during the first response. If the FOA is really a state of better access, the second report should be beneficial for items outside the FOA, but not beneficial for items inside the FOA. In two experiments on color working memory, we used retro-cues, presented after encoding, but prior to test, to put items in the FOA (Expt. 1, set size 5, n=17; Expt. 2, set size 4, n=15). 75% of trials were cued (100% valid). In each trial, participants were given two chances to indicate the color of the tested item. In the first response, participants chose any color on a color wheel. In the second response, participants chose between the correct color and an incorrect foil color, both equidistant from the first response in color space. Thus, if the first response reflected what people knew about the item, performance should be at chance (50%) for that response. Cued trials had lower guess rates and precision estimates than uncued trials (first response). Importantly, performance on second report was well above chance for both trial types (Expt. 1 cued 69.4%, uncued 61.6%; Expt. 2 cued 69.3%, uncued 65.8%), indicating a failure to retrieve stored information during the first response, even for items in the FOA. This finding is inconsistent with the assumption that the FOA is a state of improved access. Instead, we suggest that items in the FOA have more information, but that being in the FOA does not change the nature of retrieval processes.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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