Date of Award


Document Type

Campus Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Developmental and Brain Sciences

First Advisor

Zsuzsa Kaldy

Second Advisor

Vivian Ciaramitaro

Third Advisor

Teodora Gliga


Visual Working Memory (VWM) in humans is a limited-capacity system for the online maintenance and manipulation of visual information. There are considerable improvements in VWM abilities in the first few years of life. To understand the developmental trajectory of these changes it is important to consider the processes that support VWM. In this thesis, I investigated the role of attention and its interaction with VWM, characterizing how this relationship changes from infancy to adulthood. First, a change detection study examined two processes related to memory encoding in 12-month-old infants and adults. Infants demonstrated both an ability to accumulate information from increased exposure duration to objects in a scene (where successful change detection was related to increased time attending to the to-be-changed object during encoding), and a persistence of memory (a familiarity across repeat exposures and interruptions). Next, changes in the flexibility in allocating attentional resources were examined both externally (with pre-cues) and internally (with retro-cues), in VWM with 4-7-year-old children and adults. Task-irrelevant information systematically biased children's memory representations and younger, 4-5-year-old children were the most susceptible to its influence. Furthermore, 4-5-year-olds were less able to shift their attentional focus using retro-cues. Lastly, pupillometry was used as a real-time measure of cognitive effort and attention in a working memory paradigm in adults. Task-evoked pupil responses increased as a function of set-size and baseline pupil measurements were more variable when participants could predict the difficulty of upcoming trials, adjusting their overall effort level. Together these studies provide insights into the relationships between different facets of visual attention and VWM over development.


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