Memory in attention

How do we search through memory and the visual field concurrently?

Every second, millions of bits of information are available to our brain. Much of this information is of a visual character. Hundreds of visual entities are present in the average field of view and mental representations of objects, scenes, and faces are manifold. Our visual attentional system works to select only the most relevant of these stimuli for awareness and action via encoding into the visual working memory.Research on visual attention has focused predominantly on how objects in the visual field are selected. As a result, theories of visual attention have been based on studies in which participants are asked to search for one particular target or one particular target category while the quantity and quality of objects in the visual field are varied. Nevertheless, outside the laboratory we often search for many targets at a given time; e.g., when looking for any of your hundred facebook friends in a crowd of unfamiliar faces, or when searching for dinner ingredients in the refrigerator. Consequently, there is a gap in our current understanding of visual selection; the question of how we select among multiple relevant target representations in our mind is unanswered. The aim of the present proposal is to address this shortcoming through a series of behavioral studies and to develop a model of hybrid selection from VLTM and the visual field. The model work will integrate components from two leading theories of visual attention – the Guided Search model (Wolfe, 1994, 2007) and the Theory of Visual Attention (Bundesen, 1990; Bundesen, Habekost, & Kyllingsbæk, 2011). This new approach will provide important links between these two central theories of visual attention and between two distinct areas of human cognition – selection from VLTM and selection from the visual field.


Maria Nordfang