Alessandra S Souza

Alessandra S Souza
University of Porto | UP · University of Porto Centre of Psychology

PhD

About

81
Publications
21,044
Reads
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1,737
Citations
Introduction
My research focuses on the factors limiting our ability to process information. I use behavioral measures and computational modeling to examine: (1) how we create, maintain, and manipulate representations in working memory; (2) why we forget information over the short-term and whether we can take active measures to prevent it (e.g., by rehearsing it); (3) how attention is used to prioritize information (retro-cue benefit); and (4) the impact of experience to cognitive plasticity.
Additional affiliations
May 2010 - present
University of Zurich
Position
  • PostDoc Position
April 2006 - July 2009
University of Brasília
Position
  • PhD Student
Description
  • Behavioral Sciences program. Supervisor: Josele Abreu-Rodrigues
March 2004 - March 2006
University of Brasília
Position
  • Master's Student
Description
  • Supervisor: Josele Abreu-Rodrigues

Publications

Publications (81)
Article
Full-text available
There is a growing interest in specifying the mechanisms underlying refreshing, i.e., the use of attention to keep working memory (WM) contents accessible. Here, we examined whether participants’ visual fixations during the retention interval of a WM task indicate the current focus of internal attention, thereby serving as an online measure of refr...
Article
Repeated exposure is assumed to promote long-term learning. This is demonstrated by the so-called "Hebb-effect": when short lists of verbal or spatial materials are presented sequentially for an immediate serial recall test, recall improves with list repetition. This repetition benefit, however, is not ubiquitous. Previous studies found little or n...
Article
Attention has multiple influences on visual working memory (VWM). Fluctuations in sustained attention predict VWM performance. Furthermore, focusing selective attention in VWM by retro-cuing the to-be-tested item during maintenance boosts retrieval. So far, we lack knowledge how the ability to focus selective attention relates to the state of susta...
Preprint
Full-text available
Repeated exposure is assumed to promote long-term learning. This is demonstrated by the so-called “Hebb-effect”: when short lists of verbal or spatial materials are presented sequentially for an immediate serial recall test, recall improves with list repetition. This repetition benefit, however, is not ubiquitous. Previous studies found little or n...
Preprint
Attention has multiple influences on visual working memory (VWM). Fluctuations in sustained attention predict VWM performance. Furthermore, focusing selective attention in VWM by retro-cuing the to-be-tested item during maintenance, boosts retrieval. So far, we lack knowledge how the ability to focus selective attention relates to the state of sust...
Presentation
Full-text available
Predictions for future retrieval success (Judgements of Learning; JOLs) are more accurate when solicited after a delay rather than immediately after studying. A possible reason is that people base their immediate JOL on the quality of working memory (WM) representations. We tested this hypothesis by implementing a manipulation that affects WM but n...
Preprint
Working memory performance is often assumed to benefit from different maintenance control strategies such as rehearsal, refreshing, elaboration, and grouping. In studies assessing strategy self-reports, some strategies were indeed associated with better recall. Nevertheless, experimental studies assessing the effect of instructing maintenance strat...
Article
Updating is the executive function (EF) previously found to most strongly relate to higher cognitive abilities such as reasoning. However, this relationship could be a methodological artifact: Measures of other EFs (i.e., inhibition and shifting) usually isolate the contribution of EF, whereas updating is measured by overall accuracy in working mem...
Article
Full-text available
People are able to prioritize more valuable information in working memory. The current study examined whether this value effect is due to the items of greater value being refreshed more than lower-value items during maintenance. To assess this possibility, we combined a probe value manipulation with a guided-refreshing procedure. Arrays of colored...
Preprint
There is a growing interest in specifying the mechanisms underlying refreshing, i.e., the use of attention to keep working memory (WM) contents accessible. Here, we examined whether participants’ visual fixations during the retention interval of a WM task indicate the current focus of internal attention, thereby serving as an online measure of refr...
Preprint
Many theories assume that actively maintaining information in working memory (WM) predicts its retention in episodic memory (EM), as revealed by the beneficial effects of more WM time. Here, we examined whether affording more time for intentional WM maintenance does indeed drive EM. Participants either intentionally or incidentally encoded sequence...
Presentation
Full-text available
Learning monitoring is essential to efficiently adjust study behavior. To date, it is unknown whether this consists of an ability that varies across individuals, and whether it is constrained by a limited cognitive resource such as working memory capacity. Across two experiments (N = 102 and N = 132), participants completed several learning tasks -...
Preprint
Full-text available
Making accurate predictions of future memory performance (Judgements of Learning; JOLs) is a prerequisite for efficient learning. Since decades, those JOLs are assumed to be made inferentially, based on cues. This cue-utilization approach substituted the idea that JOLs are directly linked to memory quality. We criticize the reasons for the rejectio...
Article
How do verbal descriptions affect visual memory over the short and long term? Here we show for the first time that verbal labeling can boost visual memories, but the source of this benefit depends on whether representations are maintained over the short term in visual working memory or over the long term in visual long-term memory. Across three exp...
Preprint
Full-text available
People are able to prioritize more valuable information in working memory. The current study examined whether this value effect is due to the more valuable items being refreshed more frequently or for a longer period of time than the other items during maintenance. To assess this possibility, we combined a probe value manipulation with a guided-ref...
Article
Describing our visual experiences improves their retention in visual working memory, yielding a labeling benefit. Labels vary, however, in categorical distinctiveness: they can be applied broadly or narrowly to categorize stimuli. Does categorical distinctiveness constrain the labeling benefit? Here, we varied the number of terms used to label cont...
Article
Full-text available
Visual working memory (VWM) is a capacity-limited system to temporarily maintain visual information. Attending to information in VWM conveys a benefit, as revealed by the retro-cue effect. For example, when the location of one memory item is retro-cued during VWM maintenance, memory accuracy for that item improves. Attentional selection in VWM can...
Article
Emotion is assumed to change how people process information by modulating attentional focus. Two recent studies (Spachtholz et al., 2014; Xie & Zhang, 2016) reported that self-reported negative emotion boosted the precision with which information was stored in visual working memory. Here we attempted and failed to replicate these findings across se...
Article
Full-text available
Human attention is subject to fluctuations. Mind-wandering (MW) - attending to thoughts unrelated to the current task demands - is considered a ubiquitous experience. According to the Control Failure x Concerns view (McVay & Kane, 2010), MW is curbed by executive control, and task-irrelevant thoughts enter consciousness due to attentional control l...
Article
Full-text available
Healthy aging is associated with decline in the ability to maintain visual information in working memory (WM). We examined whether this decline can be explained by decreases in the ability to filter distraction during encoding or to ignore distraction during memory maintenance. Distraction consisted of irrelevant objects (Exp. 1) or irrelevant feat...
Preprint
Attentional control as an ability to regulate information processing during goal-directed behavior is critical to many theories of human cognition and thought to predict a large range of everyday behaviors. However, in recent years, failures to reliably assess individual differences in attentional control have sparked a debate concerning whether at...
Preprint
Updating is the executive function (EF) previously found to most strongly relate to higher cognitive abilities such as reasoning. However, this relationship could be a methodological artifact: Measures of other EFs (i.e., inhibition and shifting) usually isolate the contribution of EF, whereas updating is measured by overall accuracy in working mem...
Article
Refreshing – briefly attending to an item in working memory – has been proposed as a domain-general maintenance process. According to the time-based resource-sharing (TBRS) theory, people refresh the contents of working memory sequentially at high speed. We measured the speed of refreshing by asking participants to sequentially refresh a small set...
Poster
Full-text available
Attention improves Working Memory performance, but attention is subject to intrinsic fluctuations. Retro-cues inform about the relevance of one representation in Working Memory, allowing to direct attention to to it, thereby improving recall accuracy. But how does focusing versus distributing attention in Working Memory affect the subjective experi...
Article
Full-text available
It is usually assumed that articulatory rehearsal improves verbal working memory. Complex span is the most used paradigm to assess working memory functioning; yet, we still lack knowledge about how participants rehearse in this task, and whether these rehearsals are beneficial. In Experiment 1, we investigated the patterns of naturally occurring ov...
Poster
Full-text available
Retro-cues guide attention to a subset of representations mainained in working memory. Spatial retro-cues guide attention to the location of a memory item, whereas feature retro-cues guide attention to one of the memory item's features. We systematically investigated under which conditions feature retro-cue benefits are observed. Feature retro-cue...
Article
Full-text available
How do we maintain information about spatial configurations in mind? Many working memory (WM) models assume that rehearsal processes are used to counteract forgetting in WM. Here, we investigated the contributions of gaze-based and attention-based rehearsal for protecting spatial representations from time-based forgetting. Participants memorized 6...
Poster
Full-text available
Mind Wandering is engagement in cognitions unrelated to the current task at hand. In the literature, seniors report fewer mind wandering than younger adults. This challenges the Attention Failure x Concerns view (McVay and Kane, 2010) of mind wandering, as seniors are thought to have impaired executive control compared to younger adults, and hence...
Article
There is a recent surge of interest in maintenance processes in working memory, such as articulatory rehearsal, elaboration, and attentional refreshing. Yet, we know little about the central attentional demand of these processes. It has been assumed that articulatory rehearsal does not require central attention at all (Vergauwe, Camos, & Barrouille...
Article
Full-text available
In the last two decades, individual-differences research has put forward 3 cognitive psychometric constructs: executive control (i.e., the ability to monitor and control ongoing thoughts and actions), working memory capacity (WMC, i.e., the ability to retain access to a limited amount of information in the service of complex tasks), and fluid intel...
Article
Deficits in the use of attention to refresh representations are argued to underlie age-related decline in working memory (WM). Retro-cues guide attention to WM contents, enabling the direct assessment of refreshing in WM. This preregistered study investigated aging deficits in refreshing via retro-cues and the preservation of refreshing boosts afte...
Article
Full-text available
The notion of bilingual advantages in executive functions (EF) is based on the assumption that the demands posed by cross-language interference serve as EF training. These training effects should be more pronounced the more cross-language interference bilinguals have to overcome when managing their two languages. In the present study, we investigat...
Data
Evidence (BF10) for (and against) a linear effect of the continuous language demographic variables on each ability. Values printed in bold indicate at least substantial evidence for (BF10 = 3), and values printed in gray against (BF10 = 0.33) the alternative hypothesis.
Data
Posterior distribution of the effect of age of acquisition (AoA) of German, of the Swiss German dialect, and of the second language (L2). Each panel (A–G) shows these effects for each cognitive ability. The dot and the bar underneath the curve shows the mean and the 95% HDI of the posterior, respectively.
Data
Posterior distribution of the effect of the number of languages learned (N. Lang.), the number of languages learned below age 7 (N. Lang. < 7), and the % of language usage other than the first language (Non-L1 Usage). Each panel (A–G) presents the posterior of these effects for each cognitive ability. The dot and the bar underneath the curve shows...
Data
Posterior distribution of the effect of proficiency (Prof.) in German, in the Swiss German dialect, and in the second language (L2). Each panel (A–G) shows the posterior of these effects for each cognitive ability. The dot and the bar underneath the curve shows the mean and the 95% highest density interval (HDI) of the posterior, respectively.
Data
Evidence (BF10) for (and against) the effect of language similarity on each task. Values printed in bold indicate at least substantial evidence for (BF10 = 3), and values printed in gray against (BF10 = 0.33) the alternative hypothesis.
Article
Articulatory rehearsal is assumed to benefit verbal working memory. Yet, there is no experimental evidence supporting a causal link between rehearsal and serial-order memory, which is one of the hallmarks of working memory functioning. Across four experiments, we tested the hypothesis that rehearsal improves working memory by asking participants to...
Preprint
Articulatory rehearsal is assumed to benefit verbal working memory. Yet, there is no experimental evidence supporting a causal link between rehearsal and serial-order memory, which is one of the hallmarks of working memory functioning. Across four experiments, we tested the hypothesis that rehearsal improves working memory by asking participants to...
Article
Chunking is the recoding of smaller units of information into larger, familiar units. Chunking is often assumed to help bypassing the limited capacity of working memory (WM). We investigate how chunks are used in WM tasks, addressing three questions: (a) Does chunking reduce the load on WM? Across four experiments chunking benefits were found not o...
Article
Attention helps manage the information held in visual working memory (vWM). Perceptual attention selects the stimuli to be represented in vWM, whereas internal attention prioritizes information already in vWM. In the present study we assessed the spatial precision of perceptual and internal attention in vWM. Participants encoded eight colored dots...
Article
Impairments in refreshing have been suggested as one source of working memory (WM) deficits in older age. Retro‐cues provide an important method of investigating this question: a retro‐cue guides attention to one WM item, thereby arguably refreshing it and increasing its accessibility compared with a no‐cue baseline. In contrast to the refreshing d...
Article
Full-text available
Working memory is one of the most important topics of research in cognitive psychology. The cognitive revolution that introduced the computer metaphor to describe human cognitive functioning called for this system in charge of the temporary storage of incoming or retrieved information to permit its processing. In the past decades, one particular me...
Article
In simple-span tasks, participants encode items sequentially for immediate serial recall. Complex-span tasks are similar, except that items are interleaved with a distraction task. Whereas immediate memory is higher in simple than complex span, in tests of episodic long-term memory, better recall for words studied in complex than simple span has be...
Article
One of the functions that attention may serve in working memory (WM) is boosting information accessibility, a mechanism known as attentional refreshing. Refreshing is assumed to be a domain‐general process operating on visual, spatial, and verbal representations alike. So far, few studies have directly manipulated refreshing of individual WM repres...
Article
How do perception and language interact to form the representations that guide our thoughts and actions over the short-term? Here, we provide a first examination of this question by investigating the role of verbal labels in a continuous visual working memory (WM) task. Across four experiments, participants retained in memory the continuous color o...
Article
We investigated the role of two kinds of attention - visual and central attention - for the maintenance of visual representations in working memory (WM). In Experiment 1 we directed attention to individual items in WM by presenting cues during the retention interval of a continuous delayed-estimation task, and instructing participants to think of t...
Article
Retro-cues (i.e., cues presented between the offset of a memory array and the onset of a probe) have consistently been found to enhance performance in working memory tasks, sometimes ameliorating the deleterious effects of increased memory load. However, the mechanism by which retro-cues exert their influence remains a matter of debate. To inform t...
Article
Ageing is associated with declines in several cognitive abilities including working memory (WM). The goal of the present study was to assess whether emotional information could reduce the age gap in the quantity and quality (precision) of representations in visual WM. Young and older adults completed a serial image recognition (SIR) task and a colo...
Article
Working memory (WM) holds and manipulates representations for ongoing cognition. Oberauer (Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 51, 45–100, 2009) distinguishes between two analogous WM sub-systems: a declarative WM which handles the objects of thought, and a procedural WM which handles the representations of (cognitive) actions. Here, we assessed...
Article
Maintenance of information in mind to the moment-to-moment cognition is accomplished by working memory (WM). WM capacity is reduced in old age, but the nature of this decline is yet not clear. The current study examined the hypothesis that the decline in visual WM performance with age is related to a reduced ability to use attention to control the...
Article
The concept of attention has a prominent place in cognitive psychology. Attention can be directed not only to perceptual information, but also to information in working memory (WM). Evidence for an internal focus of attention has come from the retro-cue effect: Performance in tests of visual WM is improved when attention is guided to the test-relev...
Article
Full-text available
The question whether being bilingual yields cognitive benefits is highly controversial with prior studies providing inconsistent results. Failures to replicate the bilingual advantage have been attributed to methodological factors such as comparing dichotomous groups and measuring cognitive abilities separately with single tasks. Therefore, the aut...
Article
Visual working memory (VWM) has a limited capacity. This limitation can be mitigated by the use of focused attention: if attention is drawn to the relevant working memory content before test, performance improves (the so-called retro-cue benefit). This study tests 2 explanations of the retro-cue benefit: (a) Focused attention protects memory repres...
Conference Paper
For researchers interested in the retention of visual information in working memory (WM), spontaneous labeling might confound the results through the unaccounted influence of verbal working memory. To prevent such influence, researchers often (but not always) require articulatory suppression (AS) – i.e., constant articulation – during the task. The...
Article
Full-text available
The effects of fixed-ratio (FR) and differential-reinforcement-of-low-rate (DRL) schedule histories on behavioral persistence were studied in three experiments with pigeons. After exposure to a multiple FR DRL schedule (baseline), either one of two prefeeding amounts were effected under the same schedule (test condition of Experiment 1), under exti...
Article
This article provides evidence that refreshing, a hypothetical attention-based process operating in working memory (WM), improves the accessibility of visual representations for recall. “Thinking of”, one of several concurrently active representations, is assumed to refresh its trace in WM, protecting the representation from being forgotten. The li...
Article
Performance in working memory (WM) tasks depends on the capacity for storing objects and on the allocation of attention to these objects. Here, we explored how capacity models need to be augmented to account for the benefit of focusing attention on the target of recall. Participants encoded six colored disks (Experiment 1) or a set of one to eight...
Article
Full-text available
Is forgetting from working memory (WM) better explained by decay or interference? The answer to this question is the topic of an ongoing debate. Recently, a number of studies showed that performance in tests of visual WM declines with an increasing unfilled retention interval. This finding was interpreted as revealing decay. Alternatively, it can b...
Article
Full-text available
During the retention interval of a working memory task, presenting a retro-cue directs attention to 1 of the items in working memory. Testing the cued item leads to faster and more accurate responses. We contrasted 5 explanations of this benefit: (a) removal of noncued items, (b) strengthening of the cued item, (c) protection from probe interferenc...
Article
In working memory (WM) tasks, performance can be boosted by directing attention to one memory object: When a retro-cue in the retention interval indicates which object will be tested, responding is faster and more accurate (the retro-cue benefit). We tested whether the retro-cue benefit in WM depends on sustained attention to the cued object by ins...
Article
The article investigates the mechanisms of selecting and updating representations in declarative and procedural working memory (WM). Declarative WM holds the objects of thought available, whereas procedural WM holds representations of what to do with these objects. Both systems consist of three embedded components: activated long-term memory, a cen...
Article
The present study investigated whether choices between contingencies of variation are affected by the degree of variability required. For such, five pigeons were exposed to a concurrent chain schedule. In the initial links, responses in one key initiated the terminal link with the most stringent variation requirement while responses in the other ke...
Article
The goal of the present study was to evaluate the role of verbal stimuli in the production of response variability in humans. College students were distributed into three groups and asked to type three-digit sequences. Participants in the systematic group were instructed to produce sequences according to a rule of their choice; those in the random...
Article
Full-text available
Extinction and presentation of response-independent stimuli are two traditional procedures to suspend a response-consequence contingency. The goal of this review is to discuss some similarities and divergences in the behavioral effects of those procedures. Among the similarities, we found responserate deceleration, stimulus control development, ren...
Article
Full-text available
The article investigates the relation between declarative and procedural working memory (WM; Oberauer, 2009). Two experiments test the assumption that representations in the two subsystems are selected for processing in analogous ways. Participants carried out a series of decisions on memorized lists of digits. For each decision, they had to select...
Article
Full-text available
Two experiments evaluated history effects on induced and operant variability. College students typed three-digit sequences on a computer keyboard. Sequence variability was induced (by no reinforcement or variation-independent reinforcement) or reinforced (by variation- or repetition-dependent reinforcement). Conditions with induced and operant vari...
Article
Pigeons were trained on an arbitrary matching-to-sample task in which Vary and Repeat contingencies served as sample stimuli.During the sample component,two keys were litred and a four-peck sequence was reinforced if its frequency was less than a certain threshold (Vary sample)or if it comprised one of two target sequences (Repeat sample). Durin...
Article
Four experiments compared the effects of self-rules and rules, and varied and specific schedules of reinforcement. Participants were first exposed to either several schedules (varied groups) or to one schedule (specific groups) and either were asked to generate rules (self-rule groups), were provided rules (rule groups), or were not asked nor provi...
Article
Full-text available
Four experiments compared the effects of self-rules and rules, and varied and specific schedules of reinforcement. Participants were first exposed to either several schedules (varied groups) or to one schedule (specific groups) and either were asked to generate rules (self-rule groups), were provided rules (rule groups), or were not asked nor provi...
Article
Full-text available
Skinner proposed that self-knowledge is a consequence of social contingencies which place the individuals' reports under the control of their own behavior. The above has been corroborated by several investigations on human and nonhuman subjects. Investigations have shown that different aspects of the relationships between the organisms behavior and...
Article
Full-text available
Skinner proposed that self-knowledge is a consequence of social contingencies which place the individuals’ reports under the control of their own behavior. The above has been corroborated by several investigations on human and nonhuman subjects. Investigations have shown that different aspects of the relationships between the organism’s behavior an...
Article
Full-text available
The literature indicates that choosing between contingencies of variation and repetition is affected by the degree of variability required for reinforcement. Once these results were obtained with non-humans, and given the relevance of cross-species generalization for the science of behavior, the goal of the present study was to investigate whether...
Article
The present study investigated perspectives about future life among adolescents of different social and geographical contexts in Brasilia (Brazil). The participants of the study were 48 adolescents studying at the last term of high school in 4 different schools of Brasilia. The instrument developed for the study was a three-point Lickert scale comp...
Data
Full-text available
Resumo O presente trabalho buscou investigar as perspectivas de futuro de adolescentes de diferentes inserções so-ciais da cidade de Brasília. Participaram dessa pesquisa 48 adolescentes matriculados no terceiro ano do ensino médio de 4 escolas do Distrito Federal. Foi construído um instrumento composto por 36 proposições com uma escala Likert de t...
Article
Full-text available
Tese (doutorado)—Universidade de Brasília, Instituto de Psicologia, Departamento de Processos Psicológicos Básicos, 2009. O objetivo do presente estudo foi investigar os efeitos da extinção e de reforços independentes sobre a aquisição e resistência a mudança da variação e repetição em humanos. Estudantes universitários foram solicitados a emitir s...
Article
Full-text available
Dissertação (mestrado)—Universidade de Brasília, Instituto de Psicologia, 2006. O objetivo do presente estudo foi investigar os efeitos da extinção e de reforços independentes sobre a aquisição e resistência a mudança da variação e repetição em humanos. Estudantes universitários foram solicitados a emitir sequências de respostas para produzir refor...

Projects

Projects (9)
Project
In this project, our goal is to understand whether and how meta-cognitive judgments are related to our limited ability to maintain information in mind for ongoing use. The system that supports online maintenance of information is working memory. in this project we seek to determine if: (a) working memory capacity constrains the ability to make accurate learning predictions; (b) to what extent working memory representations affect predictions of future memory performance, and (c) whether so-called metacognitive illusions are related to working memory processes
Project
In this project, financed by the NORTE 2020 program, we aim to promote bridges between the laboratories where scientific and technological knowledge is produced, the formal education contexts where such knowledge is “consumed” and the individuals who “consume” it, and the public sphere where such knowledge is used in vindication for public policies and economic and social changes. It is organized into five Work Packages (WP) of activities. My research relates to Work-Package 3, entitled Climate change: psychological barriers, risks and promotion of climate action. Our aims are: 3.1. to identify psychological barriers to climate action; 3.2. to assess public understanding of scientific claims and factors leading to climate change denial; 3.3. to determine how people assess environmental risks; 3.4. to foster environmentally sustainable behaviour.