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Leon Gmeindl, Lisa N. Jefferies, Steven Yantis; Individual differences in the ability to restrict the breadth of attention are correlated with visuospatial working memory capacity. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):1261. doi: 10.1167/11.11.1261.
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There is substantial evidence for a close relationship between attention and working memory (WM; e.g., Jonides et al., 2008). We therefore hypothesized that individuals with relatively high WM capacity are better able to restrict the focus of attention to relevant spatial locations. Findings from a separate line of research (e.g., Castiello & Umiltà, 1990; Turatto et al., 2000) indicate that the efficiency with which stimuli appearing within the focus of attention are processed is inversely related to the size (breadth) of the attentional focus, which has been manipulated by spatial precues of variable size. Thus, the magnitude of this cue-size effect indexes the effective concentration of attention to the relevant spatial location. If people with relatively high WM capacity are better able to restrict attention to a relevant spatial location, then there should be a positive correlation between WM capacity and the magnitude of the cue-size effect. Our results confirmed this prediction, indicating that visuospatial WM capacity and the ability to restrict the distribution of visuospatial attention (even when only a single location is relevant) are correlated across individuals. These results also are consistent with the possibility that the ability to constrain and maintain attentional focus underlies the increased precision of WM representations observed for high-capacity individuals (e.g., Walsh, Gmeindl, Flombaum, & Shelton, 2010).
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