Eye movements as a gatekeeper for memorization: evidence for the persistence of attentional sets in visual memory search
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Attention is known to serve multiple goals, including the selection of information for further perceptual analysis (selection for perception) and for goal-directed behavior (selection for action). Here, we study the role of overt attention (i.e., eye movements) as a gatekeeper for memorization processes (selection for memorization). Subjects memorized complex multidimensional stimulus displays and subsequently indicated whether a specific (probe) item was present. In Experiment 1 we utilized an incidental learning setting where in the beginning only a subset of display stimuli was relevant, whereas in a transfer block all stimuli were possible probe items. In Experiment 2, we used an explicit learning setting within a between-group design. Response times and gaze patterns indicated that subjects learned to ignore irrelevant stimuli while forming memory representations. The findings suggest that complex feature binding processes in peripheral vision may serve to guide overt selective attention, which eventually contributes to filtering out irrelevant information even in highly complex environments. Gaze patterns suggested that attentional control settings persisted even when they were no longer required.
KeywordsWork Memory Capacity Fixation Duration Display Size Item Type Visual Working Memory
We thank Jane Raymond, Werner Schneider, and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on a previous draft of the manuscript, and those who kindly volunteered to participate in the study.
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