Feature-based memory-driven attentional capture: visual working memory content affects visual attention

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2006 Oct;32(5):1243-65. doi: 10.1037/0096-1523.32.5.1243.


In 7 experiments, the authors explored whether visual attention (the ability to select relevant visual information) and visual working memory (the ability to retain relevant visual information) share the same content representations. The presence of singleton distractors interfered more strongly with a visual search task when it was accompanied by an additional memory task. Singleton distractors interfered even more when they were identical or related to the object held in memory, but only when it was difficult to verbalize the memory content. Furthermore, this content-specific interaction occurred for features that were relevant to the memory task but not for irrelevant features of the same object or for once-remembered objects that could be forgotten. Finally, memory-related distractors attracted more eye movements but did not result in longer fixations. The results demonstrate memory-driven attentional capture on the basis of content-specific representations.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Eye Movements / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Reaction Time
  • Semantics*
  • Visual Perception*