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Lindsay Plater, Blaire Dube, Maria Giammarco, Kirsten Donaldson, Krista Miller, Naseem Al-Aidroos; Goals matter: Only searched-for visual working memory representations form an attentional control set.. Journal of Vision 2020;20(11):151. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/jov.20.11.151.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Attentional control settings (ACSs) guide attention in our complex visual environments by determining which objects capture our spatial attention. Both episodic long-term memory and semantic memory can support ACSs, but the role of visual working memory (VWM) remains unclear. Here, we assessed whether objects represented in VWM form an ACS and control attentional capture. In Experiment 1, participants maintained a colour in memory while completing a modified Posner cueing task that was designed to measure both singleton distractor costs and spatial cueing effects. The memory colour changed on each trial to limit the contribution of long-term memory. In Experiment 1, we replicated the typical finding of greater singleton capture by cues that matched the memory colour, indicating that the colour was represented in active VWM and produced an attentional bias. There was, however, no effect on spatial cueing; all cues produced comparable spatial cueing effects, even when they did not match the colour maintained in memory, indicating that the memory colour did not form an ACS. In Experiment 2, we adjusted the Posner cueing task so that participants had to search for the colour held in VWM. We again found enhanced singleton distractor costs by memory matching cues. Critically, the searched-for colour maintained in VWM formed an ACS; only memory matching cues, but not non-matching cues, produced a spatial cueing effect. These experiments contribute two important findings: 1) merely representing an object in active VWM is not sufficient for the representation of that object to form an ACS (Experiment 1), and 2) participants can form an ACS even when the searched-for colour changes from trial to trial, suggesting that—like episodic and semantic long-term memory—VWM can support ACSs (Experiment 2).
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