Distinct capacity limits for attention and working memory: Evidence from attentive tracking and visual working memory paradigms

Daryl Fougnie, René Marois
Psychological Science 2006, 17 (6): 526-34
A hallmark of both visual attention and working memory is their severe capacity limit: People can attentively track only about four objects in a multiple object tracking (MOT) task and can hold only up to four objects in visual working memory (VWM). It has been proposed that attention underlies the capacity limit of VWM. We tested this hypothesis by determining the effect of varying the load of a MOT task performed during the retention interval of a VWM task and comparing the resulting dual-task costs with those observed when a VWM task was performed concurrently with another VWM task or with a verbal working memory task. Instead of supporting the view that the capacity limit of VWM is solely attention based, the results indicate that VWM capacity is set by the interaction of visuospatial attentional, central amodal, and local task-specific sources of processing.

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