Attentional capture by working memory contents

Yi Pan
Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology 2010, 64 (2): 124-8
There has been controversy on whether working memory (WM) contents automatically guide attention. The present study tried to replicate the effect of WM-based attentional capture using an adaption of Downing's (2000) paradigm, in which WM and attentional capture were combined. Subjects were presented with an attention display containing two objects, one of which could be precued by a matching item being held in WM. As measured by a probe discrimination task, the memory-matching object had a privileged status to capture attention regardless of the stimulus onset asynchronies between the memory cue and the attention display, even when there was absolutely no benefit for subjects to bias attention in favour of the memory match. These results suggest that WM contents guide attention in an involuntary manner. The implications of current findings for understanding of WM effects on visual selection are discussed.

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