Temporal Attention Modulates Episodic Encoding and EEG Subsequent Memory Effects

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Individuals tend to remember some moments from their life better than others, and part of this variability can be attributed to shifts in attention over time. Attention to external stimuli can shift due to the onset of a behaviorally relevant event (e.g., the appearance of a person you are looking for) or due to changes in the ability to sustain focus on a cognitive task. Both of these aspects of attention contribute to the attentional boost effect (ABE), in which participants perform a continuous target detection task while encoding a stream of unrelated background information. Despite increased attention to targets, items presented concurrently with a target are better remembered than those presented with distractors. However, the influence of the ABE on episodic representations of events and the neural mechanisms involved in this effect are unclear, and are the focus of this dissertation. The first of three empirical articles investigates how orienting attention to targets in a detection task influences context representations of an event. Using an ROC-based computational modeling approach, I demonstrate that target detection can increase estimates of recollection memory for concurrently presented information. Building on these findings, in a second empirical article I investigate whether detecting a target at encoding can facilitate the reinstatement of temporal context and inter-item associations in free recall. I found no evidence of such effects, suggesting that target-related enhancements to memory are temporally constrained and do not include associations between items encoded at separate events. Finally, in a third empirical study I use scalp EEG to investigate whether dual-task interference, sustaining attention to a task, and reactively orienting to important stimuli can separately contribute to memory formation in the ABE. The results point to multiple mechanisms contributing to the effects of variability in attention on memory encoding. Together, the findings presented in this dissertation broaden our understanding of the interplay between attention and memory.

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172 pages


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Attention; Computational Modeling; EEG; Memory


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Swallow, Khena

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DeRosa, Eve
Field, David
Smith, David

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Ph. D., Psychology

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Doctor of Philosophy

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Government Document




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dissertation or thesis

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