Is working memory load a critical factor in distractor processing?
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Science
To achieve goal-orientated behaviour, selective attention is often needed to filter out irrelevant information. Past research has shown that working memory (WM) plays a critical role in selective attention, with high WM load leading to more distractor interference than low WM load. However, because WM load is usually manipulated by requiring participants to hold in memory either one or several digits that were presented simultaneously while performing a selective attention task, the extent of attentional focus was not controlled. The present study examined the effect of WM load on distractor inhibition while keeping attentional focus constant by presenting one digit (low load condition) or six digits (high load condition) sequentially. The participants in the high-load condition demonstrated greater distractor interference than the participants in the low-load condition, suggesting that WM load influences distractor inhibition even when the extent of attentional focus was controlled. This result provides converging evidence to Lavie's (1995, 2005) load theory of attention and cognitive control.