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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2006 Mar;32(2):197-214.

Is the focus of attention in working memory expanded through practice?

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Department of PsychologyUniversity of Potsdam, Potsdam, Germany.


This article reinvestigates the claim by P. Verhaeghen, J. Cerella, and C. Basak (2004) that the focus of attention in working memory can be expanded from 1 to 4 items through practice. Using a modified version of Verhaeghen et al.'s n-back paradigm, Experiments 1 and 3 show that a signature of a one-item focus, the time cost for switching between items in working memory, persists over practice. Verhaeghen et al. reported a shift over practice from a step function to a linear slope of reaction times over set size and argued that it reflects the expansion of the focus. With an improved counterbalancing scheme, a continuously increasing slope was found even without practice in Experiment 2. The results question the hypothesis that the focus is expanded through practice. They are in line with predictions from a model that distinguishes a one-item focus from a direct-access region holding about 4 items.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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