Beyond perceptual load and dilution: a review of the role of working memory in selective attention

De Fockert, J. W.. 2013. Beyond perceptual load and dilution: a review of the role of working memory in selective attention. Frontiers in Psychology, 4, 287. ISSN 1664-1078 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

The perceptual load and dilution models differ fundamentally in terms of the proposed mechanism underlying variation in distractibility during different perceptual conditions. However, both models predict that distracting information can be processed beyond perceptual processing under certain conditions, a prediction that is well-supported by the literature. Load theory proposes that in such cases, where perceptual task aspects do not allow for sufficient attentional selectivity, the maintenance of task-relevant processing depends on cognitive control mechanisms, including working memory. The key prediction is that working memory plays a role in keeping clear processing priorities in the face of potential distraction, and the evidence reviewed and evaluated in a meta-analysis here supports this claim, by showing that the processing of distracting information tends to be enhanced when load on a concurrent task of working memory is high. Low working memory capacity is similarly associated with greater distractor processing in selective attention, again suggesting that the unavailability of working memory during selective attention leads to an increase in distractibility. Together, these findings suggest that selective attention against distractors that are processed beyond perception depends on the availability of working memory. Possible mechanisms for the effects of working memory on selective attention are discussed.

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selective attention, distractibility, working memory load, working memory capacity, review, meta-analysis

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21 May 2013Published
4 May 2013Accepted

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Date Deposited:

22 May 2013 13:37

Last Modified:

03 Aug 2021 15:04

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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