How do we store spatial working memories?

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Psychology

Abstract

Mobile digital technologies are ubiquitous in modern society. They
have revolutionised the way we live our lives, often in positive ways.
However, a common theme in the public discourse surrounding
digital technology is a fear that these technologies are causing
profound changes to fundamental cognitive processes such as
attention and memory. The idea that digital technology affects
memory is widely held but is unfortunately very hard to test because
the nature of memory, and in particular 'working memory' (the
ability to store and manipulate information), remains hotly disputed.
One view is that there are a fixed number of 3-4 slots, and each slot
can store 1 item, like letters in a pigeonhole. The alternative view is
that working memory is a resource, and that this resource is flexibly
allocated to each item. Items allocated greater resources are stored
with higher fidelity, but as the number of items increases, the
resource allocated to each item must be reduced. Resource models
of memory have been successfully applied to visual memory, but
they have not been tested using spatial memory. This is important
because spatial memory is central to many cognitive processes, such
as navigation and spatial reasoning, that have been 'offloaded' onto
mobile devices. The goal of this project is therefore to better
understand of the nature of memory by testing the validity of the
resource model of spatial working memory. This understanding is an
essential step towards informing wider debates about the impact of
digital technology on the human condition.

Publications

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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000762/1 01/10/2017 30/09/2027
2202690 Studentship ES/P000762/1 01/10/2019 30/06/2023 Siobhan Margaret McAteer