Attentional attenuation (rather than attentional boost) through task switching leads to a selective long-term memory decline

Frontiers in Psychology 13 (2022)
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Abstract

Allocating attention determines what we remember later. Attentional demands vary in a task-switching paradigm, with greater demands for switch than for repeat trials. This also results in lower subsequent memory performance for switch compared to repeat trials. The main goal of the present study was to investigate the consequences of task switching after a long study-test interval and to examine the contributions of the two memory components, recollection and familiarity. In the study phase, the participants performed a task-switching procedure in which they had to switch between two classifications tasks with pictures. After a short vs. a long study-test interval of a week, the participants performed a surprise memory test for the pictures and gave remember/know judgements. The results showed that recognition memory declined after 1 week and this was mainly due to a decrease in “remember” responses. The results also showed that the task-switching effect on memory was enduring. Whereas the results of the immediate test were mixed, the results of the delayed tests showed that the task-switching effect was based on recollection, expressed in more “remember” responses for repeat than for switch trials. As recollection is more sensitive to attention manipulations than familiarity, the results align with the notion that attentional requirements at study determine what we remember, in particular after a long study-test interval.

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