Executive and Perceptual Attention Play Different Roles in Visual Working Memory: Evidence From Suffix and Strategy Effects

Yanmei Hu, Graham J. Hitch, Alan D. Baddeley, Ming Zhang, Richard J. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Four experiments studied the interfering effects of a to-be-ignored "stimulus suffix" on cued recall of feature bindings for a series of objects. When each object was given equal weight (Experiment 1) or rewards favored recent items (Experiments 2 and 4), a recency effect emerged that was selectively reduced by a suffix. The reduction was greater for a "plausible" suffix with features drawn from the same set as the memory items, in which case a feature of the suffix was frequently recalled as an intrusion error. Changing payoffs to reward recall of early items led to a primacy effect alongside recency (Experiments 3 and 4). Primacy, like recency, was reduced by a suffix and the reduction was greater for a suffix with plausible features, such features often being recalled as intrusion errors. Experiment 4 revealed a tradeoff such that increased primacy came at the cost of a reduction in recency. These observations show that priority instructions and recency combine to determine a limited number of items that are the most accessible for immediate recall and yet at the same time the most vulnerable to interference. We interpret this outcome in terms of a labile, limited capacity "privileged state" controlled by both central executive processes and perceptual attention. We suggest further that this privileged state can be usefully interpreted as the focus of attention in the episodic buffer. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2014 APA, all rights reserved).
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1665-1678
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014

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