The attentional boost effect really is a boost: Evidence from a new baseline

Khena M. Swallow, Yuhong V. Jiang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    30 Scopus citations


    In the attentional boost effect, participants encode images into memory as they perform an unrelated target-detection task. Later memory is better for images that coincided with a target rather than a distractor. This advantage could reflect a broad processing enhancement triggered by target detection, but it could also reflect inhibitory processes triggered by distractor rejection. To test these possibilities, in four experiments we acquired a baseline measure of image memory when neither a target nor a distractor was presented. Participants memorized faces presented in a continuous series (500- or 100-ms duration). At the same time, participants monitored a stream of squares. Some faces appeared on their own, and others coincided with squares in either a target or a nontarget color. Because the processes associated with both target detection and distractor rejection were minimized when faces appeared on their own, this condition served as a baseline measure of face encoding. The data showed that long-term memory for faces coinciding with a target square was enhanced relative to faces in both the baseline and distractor conditions. We concluded that detecting a behaviorally relevant event boosts memory for concurrently presented images in dual-task situations.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1298-1307
    Number of pages10
    JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
    Issue number5
    StatePublished - Jul 2014

    Bibliographical note

    Funding Information:
    This research was funded in part by the Institute of Marketing and Research of the University of Minnesota. The authors thank Tal Makovski for discussion, and Lily Berrin, Birgit Fink, Mary-Kelly Mulligan, and Tian Saltzman for help with data collection.


    • Attention
    • Attentional boost effect
    • Dual-task processing


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