Forget me if you can: Attentional capture by to-be-remembered and to-be-forgotten visual stimuli

Edyta Sasin, Candice Morey, Mark Nieuwenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Previous studies on directed forgetting in visual working memory (VWM) have shown that if people are cued to remember only a subset of the items currently held in VWM, they will completely forget the uncued, no-longer relevant items. While this finding is indicative of selective remembering, it remains unclear whether directed forgetting can also occur in the absence of any concurrent to-be-remembered information. In the current study, we addressed this matter by asking participants to memorize a single object that could be followed by a cue to forget or remember this object. Following the cue, we assessed the object’s activation in VWM by determining whether a matching distractor would capture attention in a visual search task. The results showed that, compared to a cue to remember, a cue to forget led to a reduced likelihood of attentional capture by a matching distractor. In addition, we found that capture effects by to-be-remembered and to-be-forgotten distractors remained stable as the interval between the onset of the cue and the search task increased from 700 ms to 3900 ms. We conclude that, in the absence of any to-be-remembered objects, an instruction to forget an object held in WM leads to a rapid but incomplete deactivation of the representation of that object, thus allowing it to continue to produce a weak biasing effect on attentional selection for several seconds after the instruction to forget.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin & Review
Early online date10 Jan 2017
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 10 Jan 2017

Keywords

  • directed forgetting
  • working memory
  • attentional capture

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