Where the magic breaks down: boundaries and the "focus-of-attention" in schizophrenia

Commentary on: Cowan N. “The magical number 4 in short-term memory:
A reconsideration of mental storage capacity”. Behavioral and Brain Sciences (2001), 24, 87-114.


The boundaries, the influences on and consequences of a short-term memory (STM) capacity of 4 lead us to consider global vs. local processing. We argue that in schizophrenia cognitive problems can lie partly in pre-conscious automatic selective attention and partly with the speed of processing in later controlled processes (including compound STM). The influence of automatic attentional mechanisms may be under-estimated in normal psychology and explain the loss of the magic 4 in schizophrenia.


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