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Marissa Calleja, Max Coltheart, Anina Rich; Can semantic information influence the guidance of attention by working memory?. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):1318. doi: 10.1167/11.11.1318.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Selective attention is guided towards stimuli matching working memory (WM)-held information in the form of simple features such as colors and shapes. Recent research suggests that semantic WM information can also guide attention. We tested whether WM-driven attentional guidance extends to more complex visual stimuli, such as everyday objects, and if semantic information from these objects can also guide attention during visual search. Participants viewed the image of an object and memorized its category, then searched for an unrelated target in a search array. After the search task, their memory for the category was tested. On exact-match trials, the viewed image reappeared as a distractor. On category-match trials, another exemplar of the memorized category appeared as a distractor. On neutral trials, none of the distractors were related to the memorized category. In Experiment 1, there were two exemplars of each category. Search times were longer on both exact-match and category-match trials than on neutral trials. In Experiment 2, there were four exemplars used for each category to ensure that participants prioritized semantic over visual information for the memory task. Search times on neutral, exact-match, and category-match trials did not differ significantly. In a third experiment, with two exemplars, participants memorized the object's image instead of its category. The results replicated those of Experiment 1. Taken together, the findings show that attentional guidance by WM can occur with complex stimuli and suggest that this guidance is driven by visual, and not semantic, information in WM.
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