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Amanda E. van Lamsweerde, Melissa R. Beck; Central attention is used to maintain feature bindings in visual working memory. Journal of Vision 2011;11(11):1288. doi: 10.1167/11.11.1288.
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The importance of visuospatial attention in the formation of perceptual feature bindings has been well supported (Treisman & Gelade, 1980); however, the role of attention in the maintenance of feature bindings in visual working memory (VWM) has been the subject of more contention (Johnson, Hollingworth, & Luck, 2008; Wheeler & Treisman, 2002). Furthermore, there is some discrepancy between the role of visuospatial attention (Fougnie & Marois, 2009) and central attention (Allen, Baddeley, & Hitch, 2006) in feature binding maintenance. The current study examined whether central attention is required to maintain feature bindings in VWM by introducing an attentionally demanding verbal secondary task during the interstimulus interval of a change detection task. Shape and binding change detection performance were compared to each other when the attention load was high (verbal long-term memory retrieval), low (respond to a tone), or none (no secondary task). In Experiment 1, all attention conditions (high, low, and no load) were randomly intermixed, requiring participants to maintain complex task instructions during all trial types. Binding performance was lower than shape across all attention load conditions. Remembering the instructions may have resulted in a load sufficient to reduce binding performance in the no-attention load condition. Therefore, in Experiment 2, the no-attention load condition was blocked separately from the high- and low-attention load conditions. In this case, shape and binding performance were equal in the no-attention load condition, while binding performance was significantly lower than shape performance when there was a high attention load (retrieval). This suggests that the attentional requirements of both long-term verbal memory retrieval and remembering detailed instructions can disrupt feature bindings, and that central attention may be necessary to remember feature bindings under certain conditions.
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