Recent research suggests that information held in working memory can facilitate subsequent attentions processing. Here, we explore the negative corollary of this conception: Under which circumstances does information in working memory disrupt subsequent processing? Seventy participants performed visual discriminations in a dual-task paradigm. They were asked to judge colors or shapes in an online attention task under three different working-memory conditions: Same, Switch, or Unknown. In the Same condition, participants selectively maintained one visual feature in working memory, from the same dimension as in the online attention task. In the Switch condition, participants selectively maintained one visual feature in working memory, but had to focus on another visual dimension in the online attention task. In the Unknown condition, participants could not predict which visual feature would be relevant for the working-memory task. We found that irrelevant features in the online attention task were particularly difficult to ignore in the Switch condition, that is, when the irrelevant features belong to a visual dimension that is simultaneously prioritized in selective working memory. The findings are consistent with accounts in terms of neural overlap between working-memory and attention circuits, and suggest that mechanisms of selection, rather than resource limitations, critically determine the extent of visual interference.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
- Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)