Working Memory and Focal Attention

Brian McElree

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Measures of retrieval speed indicated that only a small subset of representations in working memory falls within the focus of attention. An n-back task, which required tracking an item 1, 2, or 3 back in a sequentially presented list, was used to examine the representation and retrieval of recent events and how control processes can be used to maintain an item in focal attention while concurrently processing new information. A speed - accuracy trade-off procedure was used to derive measures of the availability and the speed with which recent events can be accessed. Results converge with other time course studies in demonstrating that attention can be concurrently allocated only to a small number of memory representations, perhaps just 1 item. Measures of retrieval speed further demonstrate that order information is retrieved by a slow search process when an item is not maintained within focal attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-835
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2001

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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