Flexibility Within Working Memory and the Focus of Attention for Sequential Verbal Information Does Not Depend On Active Maintenance

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The focus of attention seems to be a static element within working memory when verbal information is serially presented, unless additional time is available for processing or active maintenance. Experiment 1 manipulated the reward associated with early and medial list positions in a probe recognition paradigm and found evidence that these nonterminal list positions could be retrieved faster and more accurately if participants were appropriately motivated—without additional time for processing or active maintenance. Experiment 2 used articulatory suppression and demonstrated that the underlying maintenance mechanism cannot be attributed to rehearsal, leaving attentional refreshing as the more likely mechanism. These findings suggest that the focus of attention within working memory can flexibly maintain nonterminal early and medial list representations at the expense of other list representations even when there is not additional time for processing or active maintenance. Maintenance seems to be accomplished through an attentional refreshing mechanism.



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