Value-driven attentional capture is modulated by the contents of working memory: An EEG study.
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Attention and working memory (WM) have previously been shown to interact closely when sensory information is being maintained. However, when non-sensory information is maintained in WM, the relationship between WM and sensory attention may be less strong. In the current study, we used electroencephalography to evaluate whether value-driven attentional capture (i.e., allocation of attention to a task-irrelevant feature previously associated with a reward) and its effects on either sensory or non-sensory WM performance might be greater than the effects of salient, non-reward-associated stimuli. In a training phase, 19 participants learned to associate a color with reward. Then, participants were presented with squares and encoded their locations into WM. Participants were instructed to convert the spatial locations either to another type of sensory representation or to an abstract, relational type of representation. During the WM delay period, task-irrelevant distractors, either previously-rewarded or non-rewarded, were presented, with a novel color distractor in the other hemifield. The results revealed lower alpha power and larger N2pc amplitude over posterior electrode sides contralateral to the previously rewarded color, compared to ipsilateral. These effects were mainly found during relational WM, compared to sensory WM, and only for the previously rewarded distractor color, compared to a previous non-rewarded target color or novel color. These effects were associated with modulations of WM performance. These results appear to reflect less capture of attention during maintenance of specific location information, and suggest that value-driven attentional capture can be mitigated as a function of the type of information maintained in WM.