Shifting attention among working memory representations: testing cue type, awareness, and strategic control

Marian E Berryhill, Lauren L Richmond, Cara S Shay, Ingrid R Olson
Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology: QJEP 2012, 65 (3): 426-38
It is well known that visual working memory (VWM) performance is modulated by attentional cues presented during encoding. Interestingly, retrospective cues presented after encoding, but prior to the test phase also improve performance. This improvement in performance is termed the retro-cue benefit. We investigated whether the retro-cue benefit is sensitive to cue type, whether participants were aware of their improvement in performance due to the retro-cue, and whether the effect was under strategic control. Experiment 1 compared the potential cueing benefits of abrupt onset retro-cues relying on bottom-up attention, number retro-cues relying on top-down attention, and arrow retro-cues, relying on a mixture of both. We found a significant retro-cue effect only for arrow retro-cues. In Experiment 2, we tested participants' awareness of their use of the informative retro-cue and found that they were aware of their improved performance. In Experiment 3, we asked whether participants have strategic control over the retro-cue. The retro-cue was difficult to ignore, suggesting that strategic control is low. The retro-cue effect appears to be within conscious awareness but not under full strategic control.

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