Paying Attention to Attention in Recognition Memory: Insights From Models and Electrophysiology

Document Type


Publication Date



attention, long-term memory, cognitive neuroscience, cognitive processes, decision making

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



Reliance on remembered facts or events requires memory for their sources, that is, the contexts in which those facts or events were embedded. Understanding of source retrieval has been stymied by the fact that uncontrolled fluctuations of attention during encoding can cloud results of key importance to theoretical development. To address this issue, we combined electrophysiology (high-density electroencephalogram, EEG, recordings) with computational modeling of behavioral results. We manipulated subjects’ attention to an auditory attribute, whether the source of individual study words was a male or female speaker. Posterior alpha-band (8–14 Hz) power in subjects’ EEG increased after a cue to ignore the voice of the person who was about to speak. Receiver-operating-characteristic analysis validated our interpretation of oscillatory dynamics as a marker of attention to source information. With attention under experimental control, computational modeling showed unequivocally that memory for source (male or female speaker) reflected a continuous signal detection process rather than a threshold recollection process.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Psychological Science, v. 24, issue 12, p. 2398-2408