Spatial working memory interferes with explicit, but not probabilistic cuing of spatial attention

Bo Yeong Won, Yuhong V Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Recent empirical and theoretical work has depicted a close relationship between visual attention and visual working memory. For example, rehearsal in spatial working memory depends on spatial attention, whereas adding a secondary spatial working memory task impairs attentional deployment in visual search. These findings have led to the proposal that working memory is attention directed toward internal representations. Here, we show that the close relationship between these 2 constructs is limited to some but not all forms of spatial attention. In 5 experiments, participants held color arrays, dot locations, or a sequence of dots in working memory. During the memory retention interval, they performed a T-among-L visual search task. Crucially, the probable target location was cued either implicitly through location probability learning or explicitly with a central arrow or verbal instruction. Our results showed that whereas imposing a visual working memory load diminished the effectiveness of explicit cuing, it did not interfere with probability cuing. We conclude that spatial working memory shares similar mechanisms with explicit, goal-driven attention but is dissociated from implicitly learned attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-806
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 1 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 American Psychological Association.


  • Goal-driven attention
  • Implicit learning
  • Probability cuing
  • Spatial attention
  • Spatial working memory


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