Concurrent guidance of attention by multiple working memory items: Behavioral and computational evidence

Cherie Zhou*, Monicque M. Lorist, Sebastiaan Mathot

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
77 Downloads (Pure)


During visual search, task-relevant representations in visual working memory (VWM), known as attentional templates, are assumed to guide attention. A current debate concerns whether only one (Single-Item-Template hypothesis; SIT) or multiple (Multiple-Item-Template hypothesis; MIT) items can serve as attentional templates simultaneously. The current study was designed to test these two hypotheses. Participants memorized two colors, prior to a visual-search task in which the target and the distractor could match or not match the colors held in VWM. Robust attentional guidance was observed when one of the memory colors was presented as the target (reduced response times (RTs) on target-match trials) or the distractor (increased RTs on distractor-match trials). We constructed two drift-diffusion models that implemented the MIT and SIT hypotheses, which are similar in their predictions about overall RTs, but differ in their predictions about RTs on individual trials. Critically, simulated RT distributions and error rates revealed a better match of the MIT hypothesis to the observed data than the SIT hypothesis. Taken together, our findings provide behavioral and computational evidence for the concurrent guidance of attention by multiple items in VWM.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2950-2962
Number of pages13
JournalAttention perception & psychophysics
Issue number6
Early online date11-May-2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2020


  • Visual working memory
  • Visual search
  • Attentional guidance
  • Attentional capture
  • Drift diffusion

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