British Journal of Psychology

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Volume 110 Issue 2 (May 2019), Pages i-iv, 193-460

Working memory dependence of spatial contextual cueing for visual search (pages 372-380)

When spatial stimulus configurations repeat in visual search, a search facilitation, resulting in shorter search times, can be observed that is due to incidental learning. This contextual cueing effect appears to be rather implicit, uncorrelated with observers’ explicit memory of display configurations. Nevertheless, as I review here, this search facilitation due to contextual cueing depends on visuospatial working memory resources, and it disappears when visuospatial working memory is loaded by a concurrent delayed match to sample task. However, the search facilitation immediately recovers for displays learnt under visuospatial working memory load when this load is removed in a subsequent test phase. Thus, latent learning of visuospatial configurations does not depend on visuospatial working memory, but the expression of learning, as memory‐guided search in repeated displays, does. This working memory dependence has also consequences for visual search with foveal vision loss, where top‐down controlled visual exploration strategies pose high demands on visuospatial working memory, in this way interfering with memory‐guided search in repeated displays. Converging evidence for the contribution of working memory to contextual cueing comes from neuroimaging data demonstrating that distinct cortical areas along the intraparietal sulcus as well as more ventral parieto‐occipital cortex are jointly activated by visual working memory and contextual cueing.

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