Impact of processing demands at encoding, maintenance and retrieval in visual working memory.
Tabi YA., Maio MR., Fallon SJ., Udale R., Dickson S., Idris MI., Nobis L., Manohar SG., Husain M.
There has been surprisingly little examination of how recall performance is affected by processing demands induced by retrieval cues, how manipulations at encoding interact with processing demands during maintenance or due to the retrieval cue, and how these are affected with aging. Here, we investigate these relationships by examining the fidelity of working memory recall across two delayed reproduction tasks with a continuous measure of report across the adult lifespan. Participants were asked to remember and subsequently reproduce from memory the identity and location of a probed item from the encoding display. In Experiment 1, we examined the effect of filtering irrelevant information at encoding and the impact of filtering distracting information at retrieval simultaneously. In Experiment 2, we tested how ignoring distracting information during maintenance or updating current contents with new information during this period affects recall. The results reveal that manipulating processing requirements induced by retrieval cues (by altering the nature of the retrieval foil) had a significant impact on memory recall: the presence of two previously viewed features from the encoding display in the retrieval foil led to a decrease in identification accuracy. Although irrelevant information can be filtered out well at encoding, both ignoring irrelevant information and updating the contents of memory during the maintenance delay had a detrimental effect on recall. These effects were similar across the lifespan, but older individuals were particularly affected by manipulations of processing demands at encoding as well as increasing set size of information to be retained in memory. Finally, analyses revealed that there were no systematic relationships between filtering performance at encoding, maintenance and retrieval suggesting that these processing demands are independent of each other. Rather than filtering being a single, monolithic entity, the data suggest that it is better accounted for as distinctly dissociable cognitive processes that engage and articulate with different phases of working memory.