Attention, Perception, & Psychophysics

, Volume 76, Issue 7, pp 1998–2014 | Cite as

Visual selective attention is equally functional for individuals with low and high working memory capacity: Evidence from accuracy and eye movements

  • Jonathan T. MallEmail author
  • Candice C. MoreyEmail author
  • Michael J. Wolff
  • Franziska Lehnert


Selective attention and working memory capacity (WMC) are related constructs, but debate about the manner in which they are related remains active. One elegant explanation of variance in WMC is that the efficiency of filtering irrelevant information is the crucial determining factor, rather than differences in capacity per se. We examined this hypothesis by relating WMC (as measured by complex span tasks) to accuracy and eye movements during visual change detection tasks with different degrees of attentional filtering and allocation requirements. Our results did not indicate strong filtering differences between high- and low-WMC groups, and where differences were observed, they were counter to those predicted by the strongest attentional filtering hypothesis. Bayes factors indicated evidence favoring positive or null relationships between WMC and correct responses to unemphasized information, as well as between WMC and the time spent looking at unemphasized information. These findings are consistent with the hypothesis that individual differences in storage capacity, not only filtering efficiency, underlie individual differences in working memory.


Attentional control Eye movementsWorking memory Visual short-term memory Individual differences 



We are grateful to Vicky Cong, Christian Hummeluhr, Sabine Kästner, Mareike Kirsch, Tuomas F. Lundström, Sebastian Scholz, An Tran, and Yixia Zheng for assistance with data collection.


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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Experimental PsychologyUniversity of GroningenGroningenNetherlands
  2. 2.School of Philosophy, Psychology, and Language SciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK

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