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Sei-Hwan Oh, Margaret Sereno; Attentional control: Be more specific!. Journal of Vision 2007;7(9):687. doi: 10.1167/7.9.687.
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Most theories of selective attention in general agree that how attention is distributed is dependent on the complex interactions between stimulus-driven (bottom-up) and goal-driven (top-down) processes (Folk, Remington & Johnston, 1992; Desimone & Duncan, 1995; Egeth & Yantis, 1997). Whereas there has been much research on what factors make an object more salient such that it captures attention in a bottom-up fashion, there has not been much research on the important factors in top-down process. Moreover, there has been a discrepancy in views of the role of working memory in top-down attentional control, with some studies showing significant attentional biasing effects of working memory (Pashler & Shiu, 1999; Downing, 2000) and others reporting no effects (Downing & Dodd, 2004; Woodman & Luck, 2007). The current study proposes that the specificity of the goal (defined as task targets in working memory) determines to what extent it will influence attentional control. Using visual search and rapid serial visual presentation tasks, we demonstrate a biasing effect only when targets are specified. These results provide a potential explanation in terms of goal-specificity for why there has been discrepancy in the literature on the biasing effect of working memory.
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