JOURNAL ARTICLE

Orienting attention in visual working memory reduces interference from memory probes

Tal Makovski, Rachel Sussman, Yuhong V Jiang
Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition 2008, 34 (2): 369-80
18315412
Given a changing visual environment, and the limited capacity of visual working memory (VWM), the contents of VWM must be in constant flux. Using a change detection task, the authors show that VWM is subject to obligatory updating in the face of new information. Change detection performance is enhanced when the item that may change is retrospectively cued 1 s after memory encoding and 0.5 s before testing. The retro-cue benefit cannot be explained by memory decay or by a reduction in interference from other items held in VWM. Rather, orienting attention to a single memory item makes VWM more resistant to interference from the test probe. The authors conclude that the content of VWM is volatile unless it receives focused attention, and that the standard change detection task underestimates VWM capacity.

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