Protecting information in working memory from distraction is essential to goal-directed behaviour. Discarding information from working memory may be just as important, as outdated information consumes precious storage capacity and can interfere with current goals. In this talk, I will discuss both of these abilities.
First, I will review recent advances in cognitive psychology and neuroscience that have produced new insights into the nature of working memory and its ability to resist distraction. This includes our recent findings which demonstrate that the benefits associated with prioritisation in working memory include a “bend but don’t break” policy for enduring distraction. Second, I will describe our recent neuroimaging work focused on intentionally removing information from working memory. We’ve identified distinct strategies for removal that have unique but stable patterns of brain activity with surprising consequences on the encoding of new information.