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Gerald McDonnell, Michael Dodd; Examining the influence of nonpredictive arrow cues and a working memory load on visual search performance. Journal of Vision 2014;14(10):1071. doi: 10.1167/14.10.1071.
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The purpose of the current study is to examine the interaction between a task-irrelevant working memory load and the allocation of visual attention. Previous research has demonstrated that when an item is held in working memory, attention shifts towards items that either matchor are similar in feature tothat of the working memory load (i.e., Downing, 2000). Holding nonpredictive arrow cues in working memory also results in the guidance of visual attention, where participants are faster at responding to a target when target location is congruent with arrow direction (McDonnell & Dodd, 2013). In Experiment 1, participants were first presented with a to-be-memorized circle or square for a subsequent memory test. After shape offset, participants then completed a visual search task where they responded to a singleton gap in an array of circles and squares. This was followed by a forced-choice memory test to ensure the shape was maintained in working memory. Surprisingly, slower reaction times were observed in the unrelated visual search task when the target shape matched the memory load shape relative to when the target and memory load shape did not match. When the working memory load consisted of a nonpredictive arrow cue (Experiment 2), or when a nonpredictive arrow cue appeared in the display while a shape was held in memory (Experiment 3), participants were always faster responding to the target at directionally cued locations. Experiment 4 examined whether the counterintuitive results in Experiment 1 were attributable to participants avoiding display shapes that may interfere with the working memory load via eyetracking. The present experiments provide an important dissociation regarding interference and facilitation in working memory, in addition to providing insight into the relative strength of attentional cues.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2014
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