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Flexible behavior requires guidance not only by sensations that are available immediately but also by relevant mental contents carried forward through working memory. Therefore, selective-attention functions that modulate the contents of working memory to guide behavior (inside-out) are just as important as those operating on sensory signals to generate internal contents (outside-in). We review the burgeoning literature on selective attention in the inside-out direction and underscore its functional, flexible, and future-focused nature. We discuss in turn the purpose (why), targets (what), sources (when), and mechanisms (how) of selective attention inside working memory, using visual working memory as a model. We show how the study of internal selective attention brings new insights concerning the core cognitive processes of attention and working memory and how considering selective attention and working memory together paves the way for a rich and integrated understanding of how mind serves behavior. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Psychology, Volume 74 is January 2023. Please see for revised estimates.

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Journal article


Annu Rev Psychol

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