Working Memory Capacity and the Top-Down Control of Visual Search: Exploring the Boundaries of “Executive Attention”

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Michael J. Kane, Professor (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
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Abstract: The executive attention theory of working memory capacity (WMC) proposes that measures of WMC broadly predict higher order cognitive abilities because they tap important and general attention capabilities (R. W. Engle & M. J. Kane, 2004). Previous research demonstrated WMC-related differences in attention tasks that required restraint of habitual responses or constraint of conscious focus. To further specify the executive attention construct, the present experiments sought boundary conditions of the WMC–attention relation. Three experiments correlated individual differences in WMC, as measured by complex span tasks, and executive control of visual search. In feature-absence search, conjunction search, and spatial configuration search, WMC was unrelated to search slopes, although they were large and reliably measured. Even in a search task designed to require the volitional movement of attention (J. M. Wolfe, G. A. Alvarez, & T. S. Horowitz, 2000), WMC was irrelevant to performance. Thus, WMC is not associated with all demanding or controlled attention processes, which poses problems for some general theories of WMC.

Additional Information

Kane, M.J., Poole, B.J., Tuholski, S.W., & Engle, R.W. (2006). Working memory capacity and the top-down control of visual search: Exploring the boundaries of ?executive attention.? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 749-777.
Language: English
Date: 2006
Working memory, Executive control, Visual search, Individual differences, Attention

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