December 2022
Volume 22, Issue 14
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   December 2022
Long-Term Memories can bypass Working Memory to Direct Attention
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Julia Pruin
    Vanderbilt University
  • Geoffrey Woodman
    Vanderbilt University
  • Footnotes
    Acknowledgements  The present work was supported by the National Eye Institute (R01-EY019882, R01-MH110378, P30-EY08126, and T32-EY007135))
Journal of Vision December 2022, Vol.22, 3234. doi:
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      Julia Pruin, Geoffrey Woodman; Long-Term Memories can bypass Working Memory to Direct Attention. Journal of Vision 2022;22(14):3234.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Past research has found that visual input can activate representations in long term-memory without that representation first being held in working memory. Following this line of reasoning, we propose that long-term memories can directly influence attention, bypassing working memory altogether. In these experiments, we had observers search for a series of targets that were cued at the beginning of each trial. Unbeknownst to the observers, these targets occasionally reappeared as distractors in later search arrays. We measured the amplitude of an event-related potential (ERP) component known as the frontal positivity which provides a measure of the strength of long-term memory encoding. We found that the amplitude of this frontal positivity during initial memory encoding predicted how fast people could find the target in the upcoming search array. Next, we found that RTs were slower on trials when a previous target was included as distractor in the array, and the magnitude of this distractor interference scaled with the amplitude of the frontal positivity when that object was originally encoded. The results of these experiments suggest that the long-term representations of target cues are able to direct attention and influence behavior, even when they are not actively being held in working memory.


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