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Four experiments explored the effect of cognitive load on the time course of top-down guidance of attention from working memory (WM). Observers had to search for a target presented among several distractors, with the target and distractor stimuli embedded inside different objects. On half of the trials, one of the distractor objects was cued by a matching item held in WM. When a single item was maintained in memory, search performance was impaired relative to a neutral baseline, where the memory and search displays did not match. These effects of WM on subsequent search were reduced by including a verbal suppression task during the WM and search displays, and by varying the WM load. The degree of competition for resources in WM is a key factor in determining the time course and magnitude of the interaction between WM and visual selection.

Original publication




Journal article


Percept Psychophys

Publication Date





924 - 934


Adolescent, Adult, Attention, Cognition, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Short-Term, Reaction Time, Speech Production Measurement, Workload