Scientific article
Open access

Evidence for spontaneous serial refreshing in verbal working memory?

Publication date2018

Working Memory (WM) keeps information temporarily accessible for ongoing cognition. One proposed mechanism to keep information active in WM is refreshing. This mechanism is assumed to operate by bringing memory items into the focus of attention, thereby serially refreshing the content of WM. We report two experiments in which we examine evidence for the spontaneous occurrence of serial refreshing in verbal WM. Participants had to remember series of red letters, and black probe letters were presented between these memory items, with each probe to be judged present in or absent from the list presented so far, as quickly as possible (i.e., the probe-span task). Response times to the probes were used to infer the status of the representations in WM and, in particular, to examine whether the content of the focus of attention changed over time, as would be expected if serial refreshing occurs spontaneously during inter-item pauses. In sharp contrast with this hypothesis, our results indicate that the last-presented memory item remained in the focus of attention during the inter-item pauses of the probe-span task. We discuss how these findings help defining the boundary conditions of spontaneous refreshing of verbal material in WM, and discuss implications for verbal WM maintenance and forgetting.

Citation (ISO format)
VERGAUWE, Evie, LANGEROCK, Naomi, COWAN, Nelson. Evidence for spontaneous serial refreshing in verbal working memory? In: Psychonomic Bulletin and Review, 2018. doi: 10.3758/s13423-017-1387-4
Main files (1)
Article (Accepted version)
ISSN of the journal1069-9384

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