Title: Consequences of sustained attention’s floodlight for recognition memory
Anna Corriveau, doctoral student in the Rosenberg Lab, Department of Psychology, University of Chicago
Abstract: Attention is often described as a spotlight in that it selectively enhances processing of relevant or salient information. However, it is not clear whether the spotlight metaphor applies to sustained attention, which fluctuates over time. Specifically, when presented with both task-relevant and task-irrelevant information, do moments of high attention act as a spotlight, selectively increasing processing for task-relevant stimuli? Or, rather, does a high attentional state act more like to a floodlight, increasing processing for both task-relevant and task-irrelevant stimuli? To investigate this, we tested how changes in sustained attention state impact recognition memory for stimuli as a function of task-relevance. Across multiple studies, we find that high sustained attention predicts better memory for both task-relevant and task-irrelevant stimuli, lending support to a floodlight model of sustained attention. This work further characterizes the relationship between sustained attention and memory and highlights a key difference between sustained attention and other aspects of attention.