Helmholtz lecture Viola Störmer, September 24th: The structure of attention and working memory
Helmholtz lecture by Viola Störmer (Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Dartmouth College): The structure of attention and working memory
Abstract: Attention is one of the most important components of cognition: it lets us focus on specific information in the environment and determines what information enters working memory and other higher levels of processing. In this talk, I will investigate the mechanisms underlying feature-based attention and visual working memory, focusing on a few recent findings from our lab. First, I will show that feature-based attention comprises a center-surround profile that increases visual processing of attended items, but at the same time inhibits signals that are perceptually similar to the attended ones. Next, I will explore how knowledge about which feature to ignore helps us attenuate processing of that feature and will show that, paradoxically, this ignoring is accomplished via strategic proactive enhancement of the to-be-ignored feature; suggesting that feature suppression may occur only indirectly as a consequence of enhancement. Finally, I will show that visual working memory – often described as having a fixed capacity limit – has higher capacity when actively maintaining meaningful, real-world objects (relative to simple stimuli). Throughout the talk, I’ll argue that an understanding of how attention and memory interact with perceptual representations provides important insights into their fundamental properties: their limits, their computations, their structures.