Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2015

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Although there is substantial evidence supporting the functional distinction between verbal working memory and visuospatial working memory, most research focuses on the verbal domain, and much is still unknown about how people maintain and manipulate visuospatial information. Previous experiments have demonstrated that the amount of environmental support for rehearsal provided to participants can have an important impact on their memory for locations (Lilienthal, Hale, & Myerson, 2014b), and that young adults may benefit more from the presence of support than older adults (Lilienthal, Hale, & Myerson, 2014a). The goal of the three experiments presented in this dissertation was to further explore a number of questions related to the effects of environmental support and age on visuospatial rehearsal, which is thought to occur through eye movements and/or shifts of spatial attention to the to-be-remembered locations (e.g., Baddeley, 1986; Awh, Jonides, & Reuter-Lorenz, 1998). In Experiment 1, across five task conditions, environmental support was either present or absent during a final retention interval, which was either short or long; the same pattern of results observed in Lilienthal et al. (2014a) was replicated using this new procedure, providing additional support for a role of decay in visuospatial working memory. In Experiment 2, young and older adults' eye movements were recorded as they rehearsed, and although young adults rehearsed less, and did so less precisely, when environmental support was absent than when support was present, no such differences were observed in older adults. In Experiment 3, participants were limited to covert rehearsal strategies (i.e., rehearsal performed through shifts of attention in the absence of eye movements), and rehearsal appeared to be impeded, and equally so, in both age groups. Overall, although the present study found further evidence for decay in visuospatial working memory, few age-related differences in the rehearsal of locations were observed, suggesting that such differences cannot account for the differential decline of visuospatial working memory observed with age.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Sandra Hale

Committee Members

Richard Abrams, David Balota, Joel Myerson, Nancy Tye-Murray


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