Tracking the mind's eye: The role of visuospatial processes in verbal working memory rehearsal.

01 October 2020 → 31 December 2022
Research Foundation - Flanders (FWO)
Research disciplines
  • Social sciences
    • Other psychology and cognitive sciences not elsewhere classified
working memory attention eye-tracking pupillometry scan patterns
Project description

For decades, the main view has been that working memory (WM) is subserved by separate storage systems, namely verbal and visuospatial WM, with the former rehearsing verbal items through inner speech and the latter rehearsing visual items through internally cycling spatial attention. Yet, recent work has challenged this view and provided evidence that verbal WM also depends on spatial processes. While speech is a continuous stream of input that progresses in time and not in space, it is nevertheless spatially lined up in memory to which principles of spatial attention apply. However, how spatial attention rehearses verbal information that is inherently nonspatial is a mystery. And, what spatial attention actually rehearses is unknown: is it the acoustics or the semantics? The main objective of this project is to reveal the precise link between spatial attention and verbal WM by tracking the mind's eyes in two work packages (WP). As a direct interface of spatial attention, eye-movements may offer a unique opportunity to reveal the online rehearsal mechanisms in verbal WM. In WP1, the spatial context of rehearsal will be tracked by analysing the scan patterns of the eyes, defined as repetitive sequences of fixations which we assume to reflect the iterative cycling process. In WP2, the content of spatial attention will be tracked by measuring pupillary responses during the rehearsal of words, that are known to evoke pupillary changes based on their meaning.