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Oana Gurau, Dejan Draschkow, Thomas Graham, Nahid Zokaei, Anna C. Nobre; Orienting attention in short-term and long-term memory across ageing. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):1137. https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.1137.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Attention can be deployed to internal representations stored in memory. Typically, this is demonstrated using retrospective cues (retro-cues), which guide prioritisation and selection within the mnemonic content in short-term memory (STM).
To investigate whether and how similar attention-orienting mechanisms may operate within long-term memory (LTM) we designed new tasks to compare the effects of retro-cues in STM and LTM and compared performance across ageing. In the STM task, observers had to remember the identities and locations of two objects presented on a scene. During the delay they were either presented with a neutral or spatially informative retro-cue. Observers were then probed by a choice of two objects and had to pick the object previously associated with the scene and then drag it to the remembered location. In the LTM task, observers first performed a search task in which they located two objects within a series of scenes, yielding novel object-scene associations. They later completed an explicit recall test, similar in structure as the STM task. A scene (without the objects) appeared, followed by a spatial or neutral retro-cue, and then a choice of two items. Participants selected the item associated with the scene in LTM and dragged it to its original position.
Our results showed that both LTM and STM retrieval benefit from retro-cueing, improving both localization precision and response times in younger and older participants. Younger participants performed better for both conditions and tasks, but orienting benefits were equivalent. Furthermore, performance benefits of orienting attention for the precision of localizing objects based on STM and LTM were positively correlated across both age groups. Our findings suggest similarities in attention-orienting mechanisms for memories with different time spans and indicate that the ability to orient attention in memory is relatively preserved in ageing despite any other deficits linked to memory performance.
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