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Front. Hum. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnhum.2018.00078

Working memory and consciousness: The current state of play

  • 1Department of Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice, Borough of Manhattan Community College, United States
  • 2Department of Philosophy, Oakland University, United States
  • 3Department of English and Philosophy, Idaho State University, United States

Working memory, an important posit in cognitive science, allows one to temporarily store and manipulate information in the service of ongoing tasks. Working memory has been traditionally classified as an explicit memory system – that is, as operating on and maintaining only consciously perceived information. Recently, however, several studies have questioned this assumption, purporting to provide evidence for unconscious working memory. In this paper, we focus on visual working memory and critically examine these studies as well as studies of unconscious perception that seem to provide indirect evidence for unconscious working memory. Our analysis indicates that current evidence does not support an unconscious working memory store, though we offer independent reasons to think that working memory may operate on unconsciously perceived information.

Keywords: visual working memory, Consciousness, Unconscious perception, Visual Perception, Visual awareness

Received: 29 Oct 2017; Accepted: 12 Feb 2018.

Edited by:

Katherine H. Karlsgodt, University of California, Los Angeles, United States

Reviewed by:

Timo Stein, University of Amsterdam, Netherlands
David Soto, Basque Center on Cognition, Brain and Language, Spain  

Copyright: © 2018 Persuh, LaRock and Berger. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Marjan Persuh, Borough of Manhattan Community College, Department of Social Sciences, Human Services and Criminal Justice, New York, United States,