Orienting Attention in Visual Working Memory Reduces Interference From Memory Probes

Tal Makovski, Rachel Sussman, Yuhong V Jiang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    204 Scopus citations


    Given a changing visual environment, and the limited capacity of visual working memory (VWM), the contents of VWM must be in constant flux. Using a change detection task, the authors show that VWM is subject to obligatory updating in the face of new information. Change detection performance is enhanced when the item that may change is retrospectively cued 1 s after memory encoding and 0.5 s before testing. The retro-cue benefit cannot be explained by memory decay or by a reduction in interference from other items held in VWM. Rather, orienting attention to a single memory item makes VWM more resistant to interference from the test probe. The authors conclude that the content of VWM is volatile unless it receives focused attention, and that the standard change detection task underestimates VWM capacity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)369-380
    Number of pages12
    JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
    Issue number2
    StatePublished - Mar 2008


    • change detection
    • memory decay
    • memory interference
    • visual attention
    • visual working memory


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