The connection between working memory and visual selective attention

In the paper I focused on seeing the relationship between working memory and how it is able to reduce participants attention to distractors and prioritize relevant information in a given task by integrating a selective attention task while manipulating memory loads and noting down to what extent it altered participants ability to carry out the selective attention task. The hypothesis being that “availability of working memory is crucial for reducing distraction by maintaining the prioritization of relevant information” (American association for advancement in science,2001).

To test out the hypothesis an experiment was carried out in which two unrelated tasks were performed. One obliging participant to use their visual selective attention and the other working memory. A prediction was made that increasing the amount of working memory load would increase participants ability to disregard prioritized data (American association for advancement in science,2001) and pay more attention to the visual distractors in the selective attention tasks. A behavioral experiment was carried out by 10 participants to test the prediction.

For the selective attention task, participants were made to sort out a series of people into two groups of pop stars or either politicians by the name on the card while paying no attention to the distractor faces on the place cards which were equally likely to be consistent or inconsistent with the names on the card. Attention to the distractors was evaluated by comparing participants reaction times between cards with compatible names and face and those not compatible. It was intertwined with a working memory task that required observers to recollect a series of numbers in a muddled or fixed order to vary loads. The test were able to support the prediction and the hypothesis that the availability of working memory was crucial for prioritizing relevant information and disregarding distractors because reaction times in the memory task increased from approximately 900 to 1500 MS between different load quantities similar to the selective attention task the distractor processing were greater in the high load tasks than low indicating an increased processing of distractors when here was more load to understand and less working memory space.

For further analysis of this theory that working memory plays a big part in one’s ability to process information, I want to investigate to what extent working memory plays a role while focusing our selective attention to prevent distractors and manipulating loads. My hypothesis being that higher loads on working memory

lead to reduced distractor processing. To test out this hypothesis the population would consist of a random selection of ten participants of which there are men and women between the ages of 20 to 29. Participants would be made to put both their working memory and selective attention to work in this task.

All participants would be required to memorise a sequence of shapes with varying sizes and shapes and would be asked to locate these studied objects in a visual sample with distractors of varying loads (independent variable), some which may correlate or not with memorized sequence. Reaction times (dependent variables) during these different scenarios will be taken down and assessed to see participants attention to and processing of distractors. I would expect to see that unlike the results of the peer article I studied, when participants where exposed to higher load of distractors their reaction times would be faster than when exposed to lower and this expectation is supported by perceptual load theory introduced by Lavie which discusses that we all have a limited capacity of attention resources in our working memory and  in able for us to pay attention to a relevant target we must also completely exhaust our attentional resources, since relevant information is processed first to be able to focus completely on it irrelevant information (distractors) must be able to exhaust all the space.

Therefore, when presented with high load of distractors (complex physical stimuli) we are able to exhaust all these resources and move our attention to the relevant target unlike with low load the capacity isn’t enough and our attention remains on the distractors. Thus if this data is represented in the results of the experiments it would back up the theory of perceptual load because they are based on the theory and the expected results come from the theory itself.