The crossroads of working memory, attention, and perception : how distraction impacts short-term memories
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Everyday experience consists of a constant tradeoff between perceiving external information while retaining internal information in memory. These two sources of information – internal and external – are used simultaneously to guide complex and goal-directed behavior. How do these two contrasting sources interact? This dissertation specifically addresses how the internal maintenance of information (i.e., memory) is able to function efficiently despite the processing of incoming information (i.e., perception). The following studies focus on (1) how working memory prioritization impacts the influence of memory on distracting perceptual processes, (2) how working memory prioritization impacts the influence of distraction on neural memory representations, (3) how incoming perception alters internal memory representations, and (4) how overloading perceptual processing impacts memory retention. Collectively, these works speak to the various consequences of distraction on working memory. By focusing on both the behavioral and neural consequences of distraction, this dissertation aims to contribute to a more comprehensive understanding of how the brain handles complex internal cognitive tasks amidst a dynamic external environment.