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Psychol Sci. 2000 Nov;11(6):467-73.

Interactions between visual working memory and selective attention.

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Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, USA.


The relationship between working memory and selective attention has traditionally been discussed as operating in one direction: Attention filters incoming information, allowing only relevant information into short-term processing stores. This study tested the prediction that the contents of visual working memory also influence the guidance of selective attention. Participants held a sample object in working memory on each trial. Two objects, one matching the sample and the other novel, were then presented simultaneously. As measured by a probe task, attention shifted to the object matching the sample. This effect generalized across object type, attentional-probe task, and working memory task. In contrast, a matched task with no memory requirement showed the opposite pattern, demonstrating that this effect is not simply due to exposure to the sample. These results confirm a specific prediction about the influence of working memory contents on the guidance of attention.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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