Evidence for a single mechanism gating perceptual and long-term memory information into working memory

Sam Verschooren, Yoav Kessler, Tobias Egner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


An influential view of working memory (WM) holds that its contents are controlled by a selective gating mechanism that allows for relevant perceptual information to enter WM when opened, but shields WM contents from interference when closed. In support of this idea, prior studies using the reference-back paradigm have established behavioral costs for opening and closing the gate between perception and WM. WM also frequently requires input from long-term memory (LTM), but it is currently unknown whether a similar gate controls the selection of LTM representations into WM, and how WM gating of perceptual vs. LTM sources of information relate to each other. To address these key theoretical questions, we devised a novel version of the reference-back paradigm, where participants switched between gating perceptual and LTM information into WM. We observed clear evidence for gate opening and closing costs in both cases. Moreover, the pattern of costs associated with gating and input source-switching indicated that perceptual and LTM information is gated into WM via a single gate, and rely on a shared source-selection mechanism. These findings extend current models of WM gating to encompass LTM information, and outline a new functional WM architecture.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104668
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2021


  • Gating
  • Long-term memory
  • Perception
  • Reference back
  • Working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Cognitive Neuroscience


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