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Anna Schubö, Tobias Feldmann-Wüstefeld; Priority of items in working memory affects attentional capture in visual search. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):63. doi: 10.1167/15.12.63.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Recent research has shown that visual attention can be biased towards visual features that match working memory (WM) content. Some studies have suggested that search for a target is facilitated when the target shares features with WM content and hampered when a distracting item shares features with WM content. So far, most studies have compared the impact of features maintained in WM with the impact of (neutral) WM-irrelevant features on visual search tasks. In the present study we extend previous evidence of close inter-relations of WM and attention by introducing negative WM priority. To that end, a WM task was combined with a visual search task. Observers had to memorize a number of items (supposedly inducing high WM priority) while ignoring other, simultaneously presented items (supposedly inducing negative WM priority). Results showed that memorized items had only little impact on attention deployment in a visual search task when WM load was high. Ignored items, however, modulated attention deployment: search targets received less attention when they shared features with ignored items but more attention when distractors shared features with ignored items, as indicated by RTs and N2pc amplitudes. These results suggest that items which need not be encoded into WM nevertheless affect subsequent attentional control processes. We interpret these findings as WM maintenance and attention control mechanisms being closely intertwined, and assume that high, low or even negative priorities can spill over from one task to the other.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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