Adverse orienting effects on visual working memory encoding and maintenance

Benchi Wang*, Chuyao Yan, Zhiguo Wang, Christian N.L. Olivers, Jan Theeuwes

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Visual working memory (VWM) representations can be strengthened by pre-cues presented before, and retro-cues presented after, the memory display, providing evidence that attentional orienting plays a role in memory encoding and maintenance. It is unknown whether attentional orienting to VWM stimuli can also have adverse effects (known as inhibition of return; IOR), as has been found for perceptual-cueing tasks. If so, this would provide further evidence for common attentional orienting mechanisms for mnemonic and perceptual representations. In Experiment 1, we used pre-cueing and demonstrated an increased encoding probability, but not precision, at short SOAs, but probability decreased at long SOAs, reminiscent of the classic IOR findings. In Experiment 2, we used retro-cueing and showed that it improved memory performance, unless attention was cued back to the center of the display by a second cue. In this case, the deleterious effects were on precision, indicating that the item was still retained, but its quality of representation suffered. Together, these results provide further evidence for universal spatial attentional mechanisms operating on perceptual as well as mnemonic representations.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1261-1267
Number of pages7
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number4
Early online date28 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


This research was supported by an European Research Council (ERC) advanced grant [ERC-2012-AdG-323413] to J.T., an ERC consolidator grant [ERC-2013-CoG-615423] to C.O., a National Natural Science Foundation of China grant (31371133) to Z.W., and a China Scholarship Council scholarship (201508330313) to B.W.

FundersFunder number
Seventh Framework Programme615423, 323413
European Research Council
National Natural Science Foundation of China31371133
China Scholarship Council201508330313


    • Inhibition of return
    • Pre-cue
    • Retro-cue
    • Visual working memory


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