Attentional guidance from two representations of the same or different dimensions in visual working memory

  • Lingxia Fan
  • Mengsi Xu
  • Najam ul Hasan
  • Mengdan Sun
  • Xuemin ZhangEmail author


Previous studies have only focused on the interference effect induced by multiple task-irrelevant representations from the same dimensions in visual working memory (VWM). The present study reexamined the issue by not only focusing on interference effect but also facilitation effect induced by multiple task-irrelevant representations from the same dimension in VWM. Furthermore, the guidance effect of multiple task-irrelevant representations from different dimensions in VWM was also investigated. Participants were instructed to complete a gap-location search task while holding two items in VWM. In Experiment 1, one of the colors (match-1) or both colors in VWM (match-2) matched with one or two targets or distractors in the search array. No guidance effects were found for match-1 trials, but there was a reliable interference effect when both colors in VWM were presented as distractors and a facilitation effect when they matched the color of two search targets. Experiment 2 was carried out to examine the guidance effect produced by multiple task-irrelevant representations from different dimensions in VWM. Participants were required to memorize the color and direction of an arrow. Attentional guidance effects were found when each one of the VWM features matched the search target, but there was no additive facilitation effect when both features were validated in visual search. These results provide evidence that multiple items in VWM can guide the attention simultaneously, but the guidance effects are flexible and various across different types of stimuli.


Visual working memory Attentional guidance effect Multiple features Visual search 



The authors acknowledge support from the General Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (31271083) (to XZ) and the Key Program of National Natural Science Foundation of China (61632014) (to XZ).

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Ethical Approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lingxia Fan
    • 1
  • Mengsi Xu
    • 2
  • Najam ul Hasan
    • 3
  • Mengdan Sun
    • 1
  • Xuemin Zhang
    • 1
    • 4
    • 5
    Email author
  1. 1.Beijing Key Lab of Applied Experimental Psychology, School of PsychologyBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of PsychologySouthwest UniversityChongqingChina
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyInternational Islamic UniversityIslamabadPakistan
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Cognitive Neuroscience and Learning and IDG/McGovern Institute for Brain ResearchBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina
  5. 5.Center for Collaboration and Innovation in Brain and Learning SciencesBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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