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Exp Psychol. 2009;56(3):165-72. doi: 10.1027/1618-3169.56.3.165.

Automatic selection of irrelevant object features through working memory: evidence for top-down attentional capture.

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Division of Neuroscience and Mental Health, Faculty of Medicine, Imperial College London, London W6 8RP, UK.


Recent research has shown that the contents of working memory (WM) can guide the early deployment of attention in visual search. Here, we assessed whether this guidance occurred for all attributes of items held in WM, or whether effects are based on just the attributes relevant for the memory task. We asked observers to hold in memory just the shape of a coloured object and to subsequently search for a target line amongst distractor lines, each embedded within a different object. On some trials, one of the objects in the search display could match the shape, the colour or both dimensions of the cue, but this object never contained the relevant target line. Relative to a neutral baseline, where there was no match between the memory and the search displays, search performance was impaired when a distractor object matched both the colour and the shape of the memory cue. The implications for the understanding of the interaction between WM and selection are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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