The modulation of perceptual selection by working memory is dependent on the focus of spatial attention

Yi Pan, David Soto
Vision Research 2010 July 9, 50 (15): 1437-44
Recent research suggests that visual selection can be automatically biased to those stimuli matching the contents of working memory (WM). However, a complete functional account of the interplay between WM and attention remains to be established. In particular, the boundary conditions of the WM effect on selection are unclear. Here, the authors investigate the influence of the focus of spatial attention (i.e., diffused vs. focused) by assessing the effect of spatial precues on attentional capture by WM. Experiments 1 and 2 showed that relative to a neutral condition without memory-matching stimuli, the presence of a memory distractor can trigger attentional capture despite being entirely irrelevant for the attention task but this happened only when the item was actively maintained in WM and not when it was merely repeated. Experiments 3a, 3b and 3c showed that attentional capture by WM can be modulated by endogenous spatial pre-cueing of the incoming target of selection. The authors conclude that WM-driven capture of visual selection is dependent on the focus of spatial attention.

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