Spatial Separation and Working Memory Capacity Affect Selective Visual Attention in the Periphery

Stefanie Klatt, Nicholas J. Smeeton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current study aimed to examine the effects of spatial separation and working memory capacity on selective visual attention. We investigated differences in the ability to identify the two covertly attended stimuli that appeared either along one of the meridians (e.g., both along the horizontal) or along two of the meridians (e.g., one along the horizontal and one along the vertical) in the attention-window task. Two visual stimuli in the periphery could be perceived along wider extents of the attentional focus’ meridians (horizontal, vertical, and diagonal) when they were located along the same meridian (e.g., horizontal) compared to two different ones (e.g., horizontal and vertical). Subjects with high working memory capacity outperformed subjects with lower working memory capacity in both conditions and stimuli presented on two meridians were less accurately perceived. The findings support the proposal that individual differences in working memory capacity are important for selective spatial visual attention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number692963
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 16 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

Funding Information:
Sörqvist, P., Nöstl, A., and Halin, N. (2012). Working memory capacity modulates habituation rate: evidence from a cross-modal auditory distraction paradigm. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 19, 245–250. doi: 10.3758/s13423-011-0203-9 Talgar, C. P., and Carrasco, M. (2002). Vertical meridian asymmetry in spatial resolution: visual and attentional factors. Psychon. Bull. Rev. 9, 714–722. doi: 10.3758/BF03196326 Treisman, A., and Gelade, G. (1980). A feature-integration theory of attention. Cogn. Psychol. 12, 97–136. doi: 10.1016/0010-0285(80)90005-5 Unsworth, N., and Engle, R. W. (2007). The nature of individual differences in working memory capacity: active maintenance in primary memory and controlled search from secondary memory. Psychol. Rev. 114, 104–132. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.114.1.104 Unsworth, N., Heitz, R. P., Schrock, J. C., and Engle, R. W. (2005). An automated version of the operation span task. Behav. Res. Methods 37, 498–505. doi: 10.3758/BF03192720 Unsworth, N., and Spillers, G. J. (2010). Working memory capacity: attention control, secondary memory, or both? A direct test of the dual-component model. J. Mem. Lang. 62, 392–406. doi: 10.1016/j.jml.2010.02.001 Conflict of Interest: The authors acknowledge financial support by the German Research Foundation and the University of Rostock within the funding program Open Access Publishing.


  • allocation task
  • attention window
  • controlled attention
  • object recognition
  • visual field


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