Effects of environmental support on overt and covert visuospatial rehearsal

Lindsey Lilienthal, Joel Myerson, Richard A. Abrams, Sandra Hale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


People can rehearse to-be-remembered locations either overtly, using eye movements, or covertly, using only shifts of spatial attention. The present study examined whether the effectiveness of these two strategies depends on environmental support for rehearsal. In Experiment 1, when environmental support (i.e., the array of possible locations) was present and participants could engage in overt rehearsal during retention intervals, longer intervals resulted in larger spans, whereas in Experiment 2, when support was present but participants could only engage in covert rehearsal, longer intervals resulted in smaller spans. When environmental support was absent, however, longer retention intervals resulted in smaller memory spans regardless of which rehearsal strategies were available. In Experiment 3, analyses of participants’ eye movements revealed that the presence of support increased participants’ fixations of to-be-remembered target locations more than fixations of non-targets, and that this was associated with better memory performance. Further, although the total time fixating targets increased, individual target fixations were actually briefer. Taken together, the present findings suggest that in the presence of environmental support, overt rehearsal is more effective than covert rehearsal at maintaining to-be-remembered locations in working memory, and that having more time for overt rehearsal can actually increase visuospatial memory spans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1052
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 14 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology(all)


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