September 2018
Volume 18, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2018
The Attentional "White Bear" Evades Visual Working Memory
Author Affiliations
  • Ryan Williams
    Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
  • Robert Newman
    Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
  • Jay Pratt
    Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
  • Susanne Ferber
    Department of Psychology, University of Toronto
Journal of Vision September 2018, Vol.18, 470. doi:
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      Ryan Williams, Robert Newman, Jay Pratt, Susanne Ferber; The Attentional "White Bear" Evades Visual Working Memory. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):470.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

  • Supplements

In visual search, cueing a feature (e.g., color) of a to-be-ignored item typically offers no attentional advantage and sometimes interferes with task performance. Since resource allocation models contend that the resolution of visual working memory (VWM) representations is determined by the distribution of attention across items, we sought to investigate the effect of featurally cueing task-irrelevant items on VWM. In Experiment 1, participants were presented displays of isoluminant diamonds that varied in hue and were to indicate the location of a "chip" that was present on the top or bottom of one of the diamonds. Prior to target presentation, a cue indicated the color of one non-target diamond that could be ignored (Ignore condition), or provided no such information (Neutral condition). Our results suggested that participants were unable to suppress attention to the cued items; performance was equal for both conditions. Experiment 2 employed a similar cueing procedure, but with a delayed estimation task. Participants studied displays of briefly presented colored squares then reported the color of one probed item following a 900 ms delay. Critically, ignore and neutral cues were presented before study displays. After decomposing response errors into a three-parameter mixture model, we found that participants held more precise representations of studied items in the Ignore compared to the Neutral condition. Experiment 3 again used the delayed estimation task, but now intermixed delays of 300 ms and 1500 ms to determine if the cueing benefit occurred at encoding or during maintenance. Again, we found precision to be higher in the Ignore condition regardless of delay length. These findings suggest that while cueing features of task irrelevant items is not sufficient to suppress attention to these items, such cues do benefit the encoding of task-relevant items.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018


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