Visual Working Memory and Attentional Guidance
Varakin, Donald Alexander
Several recent papers state that working memory's contents cause attention to automatically deploy to matching objects in a display. Results of eight experiments reported here are inconsistent with this claim. In the experiments, participants were given at least one object to hold in working memory (WM) at the beginning of a trial, and a recognition test was given at the end of each trial to ensure they held the object(s) in mind. During the retention interval, two objects were simultaneously flashed on the screen followed by a response probe. One of the flashed objects matched the item in WM and the other was different. If WM's contents guide attention, then probe responses should be aided when the probe appears at the location of the item matching WM. Seven experiments demonstrated that attention does not always deploy to memory matches, and four of these demonstrated that attention deploys to the mismatch when participants report not attending to memory matches. One experiment suggests that WM's contents might guide attention to memory matches for at least the first 300 ms of maintenance. The implications of these findings for theories about WM and attention are discussed.