Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 669–674 | Cite as

The role of working memory in attentional capture

  • Nilli LavieEmail author
  • Jan De Fockert
Brief Reports


Much previous research has demonstrated that visual search is typically disrupted by the presence of a unique “singleton” distractor in the search display. Here we show that attentional capture by an irrelevant color singleton during shape search critically depends on availability of working memory to the search task: When working memory is loaded in a concurrent yet unrelated verbal short-term memory task, capture increases. These findings converge with previous demonstrations that increasing working memory load results in greater distractor interference in Stroop-like tasks (de Fockert, Rees, Frith, & Lavie, 2001; Lavie, Hirst, de Fockert, & Viding, 2004), which support the hypothesis that working memory provides goal-directed control of visual selective attention allowing to minimize interference by goal-irrelevant distractors.


Visual Search Search Task Attentional Capture Work Memory Load Search Display 
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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity College LondonLondonEngland
  2. 2.Goldsmiths CollegeUniversity of LondonLondonEngland

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