The following is a summary of “Dynamic resource allocation in spatial working memory during full and partial report tasks,” published in the February 2023 issue of Ophthalmology by McAteer, et al.

Working memory literature extensively describes serial position effects. Primacy effects overshadow recency effects more often in studies of spatial short-term memory that rely on binary answers; full report tasks. Yet, studies that employ a continuous response and partial report task revealed recency effects that outweigh primacy effects. For a study, researchers investigated the hypothesis that using full and partial continuous response tasks to probe spatial working memory would result in different distributions of visuospatial working memory resources across spatial sequences and, therefore, explain the contradictory findings in the literature.

When memory was tested with a full report task, Experiment 1 showed that primacy effects were seen. While regulating eye movements, Experiment 2 supported the conclusion. Importantly, Experiment 3 showed that switching from a complete to a partial report task eliminated the primacy effect and generated a recency effect, which is consistent with the notion that allocating resources in visuospatial working memory depends on the kind of recall required. According to this theory, the primacy effect in the full report task resulted from the accumulation of noise brought on by the execution of numerous spatially directed actions during recall, whereas the recency effect in the partial report task reflects the redistribution of preallocated resources when an anticipated item is not presented.

The findings highlighted both the need to consider how memory is probed when interpreting behavioral data through the lens of resource theories of spatial working memory and the possibility of reconciling seemingly incongruent findings within this theory.