Individual Differences in Working Memory Capacity Predict Learned Control Over Attentional Capture

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Abstract

Although individual differences in working memory capacity (WMC) typically predict susceptibility to attentional capture in various paradigms (e.g., Stroop, antisaccade, flankers), it sometimes fails to correlate with the magnitude of attentional capture effects in visual search (e.g., Stokes, 2016), which is 1 of the most frequently studied tasks to study capture (Theeuwes, 2010). But some studies have shown that search modes can mitigate the effects of attentional capture (Leber & Egeth, 2006). Therefore, the present study examined whether or not the relationship between WMC and attentional capture changes as a function of the search modes available. In Experiment 1, WMC was unrelated to attentional capture, but only 1 search mode (singleton-detection) could be employed. In Experiment 2, greater WMC predicted smaller attentional capture effects, but only when multiple search modes (feature-search and singleton-detection) could be employed. Importantly this relationship was entirely independent of variation in attention control, which suggests that this effect is driven by WMC-related long-term memory differences (Cosman & Vecera, 2013a, 2013b). The present set of findings help to further our understanding of the nuanced ways in which memory and attention interact.

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