The Memory and Attention Laboratory at the University of South Dakota is part of the Human Factors & Applied Cognition program in the Department of Psychology. We study memory, attention, and multitasking in humans using behavioral experiments, eye tracking, pupillometry, and computational modeling. Our work informs current theories of how working memories are formed, the causes of forgetting, and the relationship between working memory and higher-order cognitive behavior.
Identification of Shared Resources for Visual Working Memory and Perception Harun Yoruk, M.A. University of Houston
Abstract: Visual working memory (VWM) representations may be decoded from signal in early visual cortex, supporting the “sensory recruitment” hypothesis that VWM is supported by the same neural tissue underlying visual perception. My past research has supported this model by showing that VWM representations are affected by crowding phenomena thought to arise in early visual cortex (e.g., radial-tangential anisotropy), similarly to perceptual vision. My current research seeks to further explore common vs. distinct resources supporting perceptual vision and visual working memory. In one experiment, I tested whether another perceptual crowding phenomenon, upper-lower visual field asymmetry, can be detected in VWM. This asymmetry in perceptual vision is thought to reflect attentional resolution differences across hemifields. While “attention” is invoked to explain both perceptual and VWM information selection, it is unclear if this reflects just one attention, or two distinct phenomena. By showing that VWM lacks an upper-lower asymmetry, this experiment suggested that VWM and perceptual representations do not attentional resolution and thus may be controlled by distinct attentional systems. In additional experiments, I investigate sensory recruitment vs. parietal models of VWM representation by asking whether maintenance of VWM representations is disrupted by ongoing perception while using causal manipulations of occipital or parietal cortex. The frontoparietal account suggests that VWM representations are protected from distraction by storing them separately from perceptual representations. I thus used transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to modulate occipital and parietal cortex while participants maintained visual information with or without distraction. Though this research is ongoing, current results show that VWM performance is not modulated by parietal cortex stimulation. However, preliminary results suggest that occipital stimulation may be beneficial.
Paper published in the Experimental Psychology (January 2024)
Although individuals performing cognitive tasks online typical show performance patterns similar to those of in person participants, we show in this paper that its not always true and that first looks at primary metrics can be deceiving. When we asked participants to perform a complex working memory task online, memory performance looked similar to in lab performance. Secondary task performance among the online participants varied dramatically and was predictive of primary task performance. Specifically, lower secondary task performance was related to lower primary task performance. This pattern demonstrates the importance of task engagement during online task performance, even when primary task measures seem good.
Cotton, K., Sandry, J., & Ricker, T.J. (2024). The effects of mind-wandering, cognitive load, and task engagement on working memory performance in remote online experiments. Experimental Psychology. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1027/1618-3169/a000599
Welcome to our incoming graduate students Victoria and Dillon! (August, 2023)
Paper accepted for publication this week in the Memory & Cognition (July 2023)
Kelly's latest paper shows that when individuals don't engage in the secondary task during the complex span task procedure, they don't experience the boost to long-term memory known as the McCabe Effect. This finding provides strong support for the theory that the McCabe Effect is a retrieval practice effect rather than an attention dwell time effect.
Cotton, K., Sandry, J., & Ricker, T.J. (accepted). Secondary task engagement drives the McCabe effect in long-term memory. Memory & Cognition.
Congrats to Megan McCray for successfully defending her Master's Thesis! (May 2023)
Her thesis titled, "Working Memory Performance: Is Subjective Measurement a Better Predictor than Cognitive Load?" showed some extremely neat effect patterns with implications for both basic cognitive theory and and applied workload measures.
We have a newly minted Ph.D. in Dr. Kelly Cotton! (April 2023)
Kelly successfully defended her dissertation titled, "Understanding the Relationship between Working Memory and Long-Term Memory." She will be moving on to a Postdoc position at Albert Einstein School of Medicine to study cognitive aging. Congrats to Kelly!!!
I Need to “See” It: The Role of Visual Imagery in Reading, Writing, Memory, and Attention Katherine Moen, PhD University of Nebraska - Kearney
Abstract: Previous research has shown that visual imagery helps individuals excel in the STEM disciplines and the creative arts. However, there is less research on the mechanisms of how visual imagery influences intellectual output, be it a poem or a scientific theory. The goal of the current study was to compare performance several cognitive tasks that differ based on their reliance on visual imagery. By using a multi-method, interdisciplinary approach, we examined the mechanisms and circumstances of when visual imagery impacts cognition, reading, and writing. After completing two scales designed to measure visual imagery ability, participants complete a variety of tasks involving reading, writing, memory, and attention. Eye-movements during the reading task revealed that participants had more regressions while reading texts did not rely heavily on visual imagery compared to text that did rely heavily on visual imagery. Additionally, working-memory capacity was negatively correlated with regression duration for texts did not rely heavily on visual imagery. These results suggest that visual imagery may facilitate reading, especially for those with low working memory capacity.
Paper accepted for publication this week in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: General (March 2023)
In this paper with Evie Vergauwe (University of Geneva) and Alessandra Souza (University of Porto) we show that the structure of memory representations varies based upon feature type (color vs shape vs orientation, etc...). We show that when people remember color and shape they maintain separate memories of separate representations of gist and exact-value. When remembering orientation people combine gist and exact-value information into a single memory representation. We are excited as characterizing the structure of memories is about as fundamental as you can get to understanding human thought.
Ricker, T.J., Souza, A., & Vergauwe, E. (accepted). Feature identity determines representation structure in working memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General.
Back-to-School: Important Considerations for Conducting School-Based Research Ellen Knowles, B.S. & BreAnne Danzi, PhD University of South Dakota, Department of Psychology
Abstract: While data collection is innately challenging, conducting research in K-12 schools is associated with a myriad of barriers that are unique to working with schools and youth in general. With this presentation, we will highlight the unique challenges that come with school-based research, touching on personal experiences with this methodology as well as school-based intervention implementation. We will also discuss how these challenges vary between communities and cultures, and how to form, foster, and maintain connections with schools and communities. Along with addressing barriers to school-based research, we also hope to emphasize the many benefits associated with conducting research in schools. Finally, we will describe a current school-based study through which we are investigating the impact of perceived online social support on psychological wellbeing in rural and urban adolescents. Through summarizing the literature base and pairing this knowledge with our own experiences, we hope to paint a picture of the need for, and benefits of, school-based research. We also hope to prepare researchers for possible road blocks to consider when designing a school-based study.
The Lab Presents at Psychonomics (November 18, 2022)
Tim's talk on Friday: Feature Identity Drives Representation Format within Visual Working Memory
Kelly's poster on Friday: How does stress affect working memory consolidation?
Paper Published in Attention Perception & Psychophysics this week (November 2022)
In this paper Kelly explores the role of creativity in the relationship between working memory consolidation and successful long-term memory retention.
Cotton, K. & Ricker, T.J. (2022). Is There a Role of Creativity in the Relationship Between Working Memory Consolidation and Long-Term Memory? Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13414-022-02598-w
Adaptive, brain computer interfaces for remote, multimodal inference Sharath Koorathota, M.S. Columbia University, Department of Biomedical Engineering
Abstract: Real-time monitoring of emotional state, helpful in improving patient outcomes, requires an understanding of the brain and body. In this talk, we focus on three aspects of real-time monitoring systems: integration of neurophysiological data, data streaming architectures to handle low-latency inference, and an experimental, closed-loop paradigm to infer emotional state from neural feedback. Specifically, we share results from attention modeling, shown to be accurate and fast for multimodal data analysis, and present preliminary results from a realistic, virtual reality experiment to study emotional state under visual uncertainty. Together, our contributions add to a growing understanding of the complex, brain-body system and in prediction of clinical outcomes through improving real-time emotional state detection.
Paper Published in Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications this week (July 2022)
In this collaboration with Dr. Sandry's lab at Montclair State University we use drift diffusion modeling to differentiate cognitive and motor slowing. This approach has interesting applications in human factors and understanding neurological disorders.
Sandry, J., & Ricker, T.J. (2022). Motor speed does not impact the drift rate: A computational hierarchical Drift Diffusion approach to differentiate cognitive and motor speed. Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 7, 66. https://doi.org/10.1186/s41235-022-00412-7
Kelly Presents at the Virtual Working Memory Symposium (June 2022)
Kelly presented her work on working memory and mind wandering, during multitasking online. The gist, at first glance performance looks the same as in the lab, but the underlying cognitive processes are quite different.
Collaboration on Mathematical Models of MS Published (May 2022)
In this collaboration with Dr. Sandry's lab at Montclair State University we did some mathematical modeling to explore better ways of assessing cognitive decline in Multiple Sclerosis. We show a relationship between components of motor slowing and brain morphometry in MS patients:
Mui, M., Ruben, R., Ricker, T.J., Dobryankova, E., & Sandry, J. (in press). Ex-Gaussian analysis of simple response time and the relationship with brain morphometry in multiple sclerosis. Multiple Sclerosis and Related Disorders.
Paper Accepted for Publication this week (May 2022)
A collaboration with Evie Vergauwe arguing that cognitive load and standard interference approaches fail to adequately account dual-task memory disruption. Instead we propose a new enrichment account:
Ricker, T.J., & Vergauwe, E. (2022). Boundary conditions for observing cognitive load effects in visual working memory. Memory & Cognition, 1-17. doi:10.3758/s13421-022-01320-3
Congrats to Kristen Quigley for Graduating from USD with her B.S. in Neuroscience! (May 2022)
Kristen is moving on to pursue her PhD in Neuroscience from the University of Nevada, Reno
Two New Papers Accepted for Publication this Week (March 2022)
Kelly's review of the relationship between working and long-term consolidation: Cotton, K. & Ricker, T.J. (2022). Examining the relationship between working memory consolidation and long-term memory consolidation. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review. And a collaboration with Dr. Karen Hebert in Occupational Therapy developing a scale to report emotional experiences in activities of daily living: Hebert, K.R. & Ricker, T.J. (2022). Reliability of the emotional experiences in activities of daily living scale (EEADLs). Occupational Therapy Journal of Research: Occupation, Participation and Health.