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High working memory load leads to more Ebbinghaus illusion

By J. W. De Fockert and Si Wu


The evidence that distractor processing increases with greater load on working memory has come mainly from Stroop-type interference tasks, making it difficult to establish whether cognitive load affects distractor processing at the perceptual level or during response selection. We measured the Ebbinghaus illusion under varying levels of working memory load to test whether cognitive control is also relevant for preventing processing of distractors that do not produce any response conflict, and instead affect target processing at the perceptual level. The Ebbinghaus illusion was greater under high working memory load, suggesting that availability of cognitive control functions is critical to reduce distractor processing even for distractors that are not associated with a response. We conclude that the effect of loading working memory during selective attention leads to greater distractor perception

Year: 2009
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