Working memory capacity and visual attention: Top-down and bottom-up guidance

Zach Shipstead, Tyler L. Harrison, Randall W. Engle

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


Previous studies have indicated that working memory capacity (WMC) is related to visual attention when selection of critical information must be made in the face of distraction. The present study examines whether WMC-related differences in flanker task performance might be decreased by displays that are designed to support bottom-up guidance of attention. Participants were required to respond to a centrally located target while ignoring a peripheral flanker. In one condition, bottom-up support was provided by embedding the target in a row of zeros. In another condition, the zeros were removed, thus emphasizing the role of top-down attention in selecting spatially defined information. It was found that the inclusion of zeros led to the elimination of WMC-related flanker effects. We conclude that bottom-up attentional guidance can attenuate the role of WMC in selective attention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)401-407
Number of pages7
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2012


  • Bottom-up
  • Flanker task
  • Selective attention
  • Visual attention
  • Working memory capacity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Psychology(all)
  • Physiology (medical)


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