Attentional cueing by cross-modal congruency produces both facilitation and inhibition on short-term visual recognition

Acta Psychol (Amst). 2014 Oct;152:75-83. doi: 10.1016/j.actpsy.2014.07.008. Epub 2014 Aug 13.


The attentional modulation of performance in a memory task, comparable to the one obtained in a perceptual task, is at the focus of contemporary research. We hypothesized that a biphasic effect (namely, facilitation followed by inhibition) can be obtained in visual working memory when attention is cued towards one item of the memorandum and participants must recognize a delayed probe as being identical to any item of the memorandum. In every trial, a delayed spiky/curvy probe appeared centrally, to be matched with the same-category shape maintained in visual working memory which could be either physically identical (positive trials) or only categorically similar (negative trials). To orient the participant's attention towards a selected portion of a two-item memorandum, a (tzk/wow) sound was played simultaneously with two lateral visual shapes (one spiky and one curved). Our results indicate that an exogenous attentional shift during perception of the memorandum, induced by a congruent audio-visual pairing, first facilitates and then inhibits the recognition of a cued item (but not of a non-cued item) stored in visual working memory. A coherent pattern of individual differences emerged, indicating that the amount of early facilitation in congruent-sound trials was negatively correlated with recognition sensitivity in no-sound trials (suggesting that the inverse effectiveness rule may also apply to memory) and positively correlated with later inhibition, as well as with the self-reported susceptibility to memory failures.

Keywords: Attention; Cross-modal binding; Inhibition of return; Inverse effectiveness rule; Multisensory integration; Visual working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention / physiology*
  • Cues*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Individuality
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology*
  • Orientation / physiology
  • Reaction Time / physiology
  • Space Perception / physiology
  • Visual Perception / physiology*
  • Young Adult