We have previously argued that oculomotor involvement in spatial working memory is task-specific (Ball et al., 2013). While eye-abduction reduces performance on the Corsi Blocks task (where locations are directly indicated), it has no effect on Arrow Span (where locations are symbolically indicated by the direction of an arrow; Shah & Miyake, 1996). We therefore do not claim that the oculomotor system will contribute to encoding and maintenance during all forms of spatial memory task. Instead, we argue the oculomotor system
contributes to optimal spatial memory during encoding and maintenance specifically when the to-be-remembered locations are directly indicated by a change in visual salience, but not when memorized locations are indirectly indicated by the meaning of symbolic cues. This interpretation check details of the role of oculomotor involvement in working memory is consistent with previous findings that have demonstrated the oculomotor system mediates orienting to sudden peripheral events, but not endogenous orienting or maintenance of attention in response to symbolic cues ( Smith
et al., 2012). Furthermore, it also provides a means to reconcile apparently conflicting theories of spatial rehearsal in working memory that have attributed maintenance either to oculomotor processes (e.g., Pearson and Sahraie, 2003 and Postle learn more et al., 2006) or to higher-level attentional processes (e.g., Awh, Vogel, & Oh, 2006). We argue that spatial memory tasks in which memoranda are directly Metformin cost signaled by a change in visual salience involve a critical contribution from the oculomotor system during the encoding and maintenance of to-be-remembered location, while spatial memory tasks in which locations are indirectly signaled by the meaning of symbolic cues predominantly utilize higher-level attentional processes for encoding and rehearsal. The results of Experiment 3 clearly demonstrate that although the oculomotor system contributes to the encoding and maintenance of
spatial locations in working memory, there is no evidence that the ability to plan and execute eye-movements to the memorized locations is necessary for subsequent accurate retrieval. This result can be related to so-called “looking at nothing” debate in the literature, which has focused on the experimental observation that participants frequently make regular eye-movements to empty regions of space that were previously occupied by salient visual stimuli (e.g., Altmann, 2004 and Richardson and Spivey, 2000). This has been interpreted as demonstrating that eye-movements form part of integrated mental representations that include visual and semantic properties of encoded stimuli (Ferreira et al., 2008, Richardson et al., 2009 and Spivey et al., 2004).