Action Planning Mediates Guidance of Visual Attention from Working Memory

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Visual search is impaired when a salient task-irrelevant stimulus is presented together with the target. Recent research has shown that this attentional capture effect is enhanced when the salient stimulus matches working memory (WM) content, arguing in favor of attention guidance from WM. Visual attention was also shown to be closely coupled with action planning. Preparing a movement renders action-relevant perceptual dimensions more salient and thus increases search efficiency for stimuli sharing that dimension. The present study aimed at revealing common underlying mechanisms for selective attention, WM, and action planning. Participants both prepared a specific movement (grasping or pointing) and memorized a color hue. Before the movement was executed towards an object of the memorized color, a visual search task (additional singleton) was performed. Results showed that distraction from target was more pronounced when the additional singleton had a memorized color. This WM-guided attention deployment was more pronounced when participants prepared a grasping movement. We argue that preparing a grasping movement mediates attention guidance from WM content by enhancing representations of memory content that matches the distractor shape (i.e., circles), thus encouraging attentional capture by circle distractors of the memorized color. We conclude that templates for visual search, action planning, and WM compete for resources and thus cause interferences.




Feldmann-Wüstefeld, T., & Schubö, A. (2015). Action Planning Mediates Guidance of Visual Attention from Working Memory. Journal of Ophthalmology, 2015.

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