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Identity but not size information in working memory biases attentional selection in hierarchical forms

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Participants held the size of a cue in working memory and looked for a target letter across local and global levels of hierarchical, compound letters. There was no effect of whether the cue size matched the size of the local or global letter, even when the size memory task was made difficult. The null effect of cue size was also found under priming conditions, when size had to be identified but not held in memory. Although cue size did not affect subsequent selection in these experiments, cue identity did. There were effects of size, however, on the magnitude of cueing effects, irrespective of whether targets were at the local or global level. The data are discussed in terms of the effects of overlap between the contents of WM and the attentional set for targets, and the role of focused and distributed attention on selection. Critically, the data run counter to the idea that local and global stimuli are selected by opening an “attentional window” of a particular size in working memory and matching this to the target letter.

Keywords: Hierarchical form perception; Selective attention; Working memory

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Behavioural Brain Sciences Centre, School of Psychology, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK

Publication date: May 1, 2011


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