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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Working memory capacity and the antisaccade task: A microanalytic-macroanalytic investigation of individual differences in goal activation and maintenance

Matt E Meier, Bridget A Smeekens, Paul J Silvia, Thomas R Kwapil, Michael J Kane
Journal of Experimental Psychology. Learning, Memory, and Cognition 2018, 44 (1): 68-84
28639800
The association between working memory capacity (WMC) and the antisaccade task, which requires subjects to move their eyes and attention away from a strong visual cue, supports the claim that WMC is partially an attentional construct (Kane, Bleckley, Conway, & Engle, 2001; Unsworth, Schrock, & Engle, 2004). Specifically, the WMC-antisaccade relation suggests that WMC helps maintain and execute task goals despite interference from habitual actions. Related work has recently shown that mind wandering (McVay & Kane, 2009, 2012a, 2012b) and reaction time (RT) variability (Unsworth, 2015) are also related to WMC and they partially explain WMC's prediction of cognitive abilities. Here, we tested whether mind-wandering propensity and intraindividual RT variation account for WMC's associations with 2 antisaccade-cued choice RT tasks. In addition, we asked whether any influences of WMC, mind wandering, or intraindividual RT variation on antisaccade are moderated by (a) the temporal gap between fixation and the flashing location cue, and (b) whether targets switch sides on consecutive trials. Our quasi-experimental study reexamined a published dataset (Kane et al., 2016) comprising 472 subjects who completed 6 WMC tasks, 5 attentional tasks with mind-wandering probes, 5 tasks from which we measured intraindividual RT variation, and 2 antisaccade tasks with varying fixation-cue gap durations. The WMC-antisaccade association was not accounted for by mind wandering or intraindividual RT variation. WMC's effects on antisaccade performance were greater with longer fixation-to-cue intervals, suggesting that goal activation processes-beyond the ability to control mind wandering and RT variability-are partially responsible for the WMC-antisaccade relation. (PsycINFO Database Record

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