The role of central attention in retrieval from visual short-term memory

Hagit Magen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The role of central attention in visual short-term memory (VSTM) encoding and maintenance is well established, yet its role in retrieval has been largely unexplored. This study examined the involvement of central attention in retrieval from VSTM using a dual-task paradigm. Participants performed a color change-detection task. Set size varied between 1 and 3 items, and the memory sample was maintained for either a short or a long delay period. A secondary tone discrimination task was introduced at the end of the delay period, shortly before the appearance of a central probe, and occupied central attention while participants were searching within VSTM representations. Similarly to numerous previous studies, reaction time increased as a function of set size reflecting the occurrence of a capacity-limited memory search. When the color targets were maintained over a short delay, memory was searched for the most part without the involvement of central attention. However, with a longer delay period, the search relied entirely on the operation of central attention. Taken together, this study demonstrates that central attention is involved in retrieval from VSTM, but the extent of its involvement depends on the duration of the delay period. Future studies will determine whether the type of memory search (parallel or serial) carried out during retrieval depends on the nature of the attentional mechanism involved the task.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)423-430
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Apr 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Central attention
  • PRP
  • Retrieval
  • VSTM


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