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Acta Psychologica Sinica    2013, Vol. 45 Issue (2) : 127-138     DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2013.00127
Guidance of Working Memory on Attention: The Effects of Inhibition Incentive
HU Yanmei;ZHANG Ming;XU Zhan;LI Biqin
(1 School of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China) (2 School of Psychology, Southwest University, Chongqing 400715, China)
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Abstract  Although items matching the contents of visual object working memory (VOWM) could automatically capture attention, whether it is obligatory remains an opening question. With two experiments, we aimed to investigate whether this guidance effect could be affected by top-down inhibitory control. The participants were instructed to remember a visual object item for a change-detection test after a short delay. During the retention interval, the participants were required to seek a target stimulus among five distractors. One of the crucial manipulations was the presence or absence of distractors in the search array matching the memory items. In Experiment 1, we varied the proportion of matching trials across different experimental groups to induce different levels of inhibition incentive. As the memory item would never match the search target, it’s highly likely that the participants would draw attention away from the memory-matching distractors. And this effect would be more pronounced in the condition of high inhibition incentive. In Experiment 2, we instructed different proportions of matching trials to different groups while keeping the actual proportion constant across groups to further ruled out the interference of practice. The main results showed, when the level of inhibition incentive was relatively low, search RTs were shorter in matching trials in comparison of that in control trials, demonstrating a classical memory-based attention capture effect by the memory-matching distractors. However, when the level of inhibition incentive was high enough, search RTs were faster in matching trials, suggesting a memory-based attention inhibition effect by the top-down control. Furthermore, the effects of the top-down inhibitory control were more in evidence and appeared earlier, when the inhibition incentive was extremely high. The results, thus, demonstrates: 1) the VOWM guidance effect is not obligatory. Instead, it’s a flexible mechanism that could be modulated by the top-down inhibitory control. And 2) this top-down control can be modulated by the level of inhibition incentive in terms of its effectiveness, efficiency and time course.
Keywords object working memory      attention      inhibition incentive     
Corresponding Authors: ZHANG Ming   
Issue Date: 28 February 2013
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HU Yanmei;ZHANG Ming;XU Zhan;LI Biqin. Guidance of Working Memory on Attention: The Effects of Inhibition Incentive[J]. Acta Psychologica Sinica,2013, 45(2): 127-138.
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