What Is Memory-Guided Attention? How Past Experiences Shape Selective Visuospatial Attention in the Present

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Abstract

What controls our attention? It is historically thought that there are two primary factors that determine selective attention: the perceptual salience of the stimuli and the goals based on the task at hand. However, this distinction doesn’t neatly capture the varied ways our past experience can influence our ongoing mental processing. In this chapter, we aim to describe how past experience can be systematically characterized by different types of memory, and we outline experimental evidence suggesting how attention can then be guided by each of these different memory types. We highlight findings from human behavioral, neuroimaging, and neuropsychological work from the perspective of two related frameworks of human memory: the multiple memory systems (MMS) framework and the neural processing (NP) framework. The MMS framework underscores how memory can be separated based on consciousness (declarative and non-declarative memory), while the NP framework emphasizes different forms of memory as reflective of different brain processing modes (rapid encoding of flexible associations, slow encoding of rigid associations, and rapid encoding of single or unitized items). We describe how memory defined by these frameworks can guide our attention, even when they do not directly relate to perceptual salience or the goals concerning the current task. We close by briefly discussing theoretical implications as well as some interesting avenues for future research.

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Chen, D., & Hutchinson, J. B. (2019). What Is Memory-Guided Attention? How Past Experiences Shape Selective Visuospatial Attention in the Present. In Current Topics in Behavioral Neurosciences (Vol. 41, pp. 185–212). Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/7854_2018_76

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