Concurrent target detection is associated with better memory for object exemplars

Caitlin Sisk, Vanessa G. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Under continuous dual-task conditions, participants show better memory for background information appearing at the same time as a response target in a concurrent task than for information appearing with a nontarget (the attentional boost effect, or ABE). While this effect has been demonstrated across a wide range of stimuli, few studies have examined the perceptual specificity of the memory difference. Here, we explored whether the ABE affects general category memory or perceptually specific exemplar memory. In an encoding phase, participants memorized images of objects presented in a continuous stream. At the same time, they pressed the space bar when a square appearing in the center of each image appeared in a target color, ignoring distractor-colored squares. The following four-alternative forced-choice memory test included the previously seen image, a perceptually distinct exemplar from the same category as the previously seen image, and two images from a new category. Regardless of whether images appeared during encoding three times (Experiment 1) or once (Experiment 2), participants recognized the correct exemplar more often during testing for images that had appeared with a target in encoding than for images that had appeared with a distractor. The difference in exemplar memory was not associated with a difference in false memories for within-category foils. This suggests that the ABE reflects modulation of perceptually detailed exemplar memory, which may be related to facilitation of pattern separation by detection-induced changes in cortical-hippocampal connectivity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Early online dateJul 21 2021
StatePublished - Jul 21 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Caitlin Sisk was supported by the National Science Foundation’s the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program. This study was also supported by Caitlin Sisk’s American Psychological Association Early Graduate Student Researcher Award. Correspondence should be sent to Caitlin Sisk, Department of Psychology, University of Minnesota, 75 East River Road, Minneapolis, MN 55455. Email:

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Attentional boost effect
  • Dual-task processing
  • Exemplar and category memory
  • Memory pattern separation

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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