Everybody agrees that we can only hold a few things in mind simultaneously.  However, there is disagreement about why.  One theory is that limited cognitive resources are flexible and spread among the items held in mind; the more items, the “thinner” the information about each.  Another theory is more of a fixed limit model: Resources are allocated in a discrete fashion and there is a fixed number of items that can be held in mind.  Ester et al provide evidence for the latter, fixed, model.  Subjects monitored a number of locations and then asked details about one of the locations.  The subject’s performance and neural data was best described by a fixed limit model.

About the Author

The Miller Lab uses experimental and theoretical approaches to study the neural basis of the high-level cognitive functions that underlie complex goal-directed behavior. ekmillerlab.mit.edu