Control of Interference During Working Memory Updating
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The current study aimed to clarify the nature of the processes underlying working memory updating. In a series of four experiments using the n-back paradigm, the authors demonstrate that continuous updating of items in working memory prevents strong binding of those items to working memory, and hence leads to an increased susceptibility to proactive interference. Results of Experiments 1 and 2 show that this interference reflects a competition between a fast and automatic process that reveals the degree of familiarity of an item, and a controlled, context-sensitive recollection process that depends on the strength of bindings between the item and working memory. Experiment 3 further clarifies the origins of this interference by demonstrating that even items that are semantically related to the updated working memory contents, but that have not been maintained in working memory before, cause proactive interference during updating. Finally, the results of Experiment 4 indicate that this interference is controlled through top-down behavioral adjustments that prioritize recollection over familiarity-assessment. The implications of these findings for the construct validity of the n-back task, for the control processes involved in working memory updating, and for the concept of executive control more generally, are discussed.
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