Executive working memory involved in the learning of contextual cueing effect
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Implicit learning of spatial layouts occurs when target–distractor configurations repeat during a visual search task [contextual cueing; Chun and Jiang in Cogn Psychol 36(1): 28–17, 1998]. This study addressed the extent to which contextual cueing depends on executive working memory (WM). In three experiments, participants performed a contextual cueing visual search task concurrently with a WM task. The WM task was either executive (subtract 3 from each digit in WM) or non-executive (hold digits in WM), and was either low load (Experiment 1) or high load (Experiment 2). Contextual cueing was attenuated in the high-load executive WM condition. Experiment 3 replicated our findings using a within-subjects design, and confirmed the interpretation that executive functions of WM are required in contextual learning.
KeywordsContextual cueing effect Executive working memory Storage working memory
We thank Dr. Hong-jin Sun who provided insight and expertise that greatly assisted the research. We are immensely grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their comments. This research was supported by grants from National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC 31400870), China Scholarship Council (CSC) and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
MC and CW contributed equally to this work. MC, CW, and GZ designed the experiments. MC, CW, and XL prepared the materials and performed the experiments. MC, CW, BS, GZ, and XL analyzed the data and wrote the manuscript.
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Conflict of interest
The authors declare no conflicts of interest.
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