ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (7): 694-713.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2021.00694

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Precision requirement of working memory representations influences attentional guidance

CHE Xiaowei, XU Huiyun, WANG Kaixuan, ZHANG Qian(), LI Shouxin()   

  1. School of Psychology, Shandong Normal University, Jinan 250358, China
  • Received:2020-05-13 Published:2021-07-25 Online:2021-05-24
  • Contact: ZHANG Qian,LI Shouxin E-mail:zhangqian_;
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(31871100)


Previous studies demonstrated that the allocation of working memory (WM) resources contributes to attentional guidance when the WM representations match the targets of a visual search task. Could the allocation of WM resources also influence the attentional guidance when the WM representations match the distractors of a visual search task? Three behavioral and one event-related potentials (ERP) experiments were conducted by using the attention capture paradigm to explore the effect of precision requirement of WM representations on attentional guidance. The behavioral results showed that (1) only one memory item could guide attention under low precision requirement, and the item in high-active state captured more attention than that in low-active state; (2) two memory items could guide attention under high precision requirement, and the items in high- and low-active state captured comparable attention. The ERP results showed that during the maintenance phase of WM, items under high precision requirement elicited larger negative slow waves and late positive components than that under low precision requirement. During the search task, memory-matching distractors in high precision condition elicited larger N2 and smaller N2pc than non-matching distractors under high precision requirement, whereas memory-matching distractors and non-matching distractors elicited equal N2 and N2pc under low precision requirement. These results suggest that precision requirement of WM representations influences attentional guidance, and the underlying mechanism might be that maintaining WM representations under high precision requirement costs more resources than that under low precision requirement, and therefore the resource for searching targets declines and the attention captured by memory-matching distractors increases.

Key words: working memory representation, attentional capture, active state, distractor inhibition