Goal-directed and stimulus-driven selection of internal representations

Freek van Ede*, Alexander G. Board, Anna C. Nobre

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Adaptive behavior relies on the selection of relevant sensory information from both the external environment and internal memory representations. In understanding external selection, a classic distinction is made between voluntary (goal-directed) and involuntary (stimulus-driven) guidance of attention. We have developed a task- the anti-retrocue task-to separate and examine voluntary and involuntary guidance of attention to internal representations in visual working memory. We show that both voluntary and involuntary factors influence memory performance but do so in distinct ways. Moreover, by tracking gaze biases linked to attentional focusing inmemory, we provide direct evidence for an involuntary "retro-capture" effect whereby external stimuli involuntarily trigger the selection of featurematching internal representations. We show that stimulus-driven and goal-directed influences compete for selection inmemory, and that the balance of this competition-as reflected in oculomotor signatures of internal attention-predicts the quality of ensuing memory-guided behavior. Thus, goal-directed and stimulus-driven factors together determine the fate not only of perception, but also of internal representations in working memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)24590-24598
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number39
Early online date14 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 29 Sept 2020


  • Attention
  • Capture
  • Memory-guided behavior
  • Oculomotor system
  • Visual working memory


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