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Dominant views of attentional control propose that we guide attention using a special representational slot in working memory. According to this view, long-term memory representations of previously searched for targets should be prevented from influence attentional guidance in the future. However, in two experiments we found that when a previously searched-for target reappeared in a visual search array that it significantly increased the amount of time people needed to report the presence of the target in the visual search array. That is, whether participants searched for real-world objects or artificial stimuli we found that long-term memories of previously searched-for objects appeared to interfere with attentional guidance. We could increase the size of this effect by using a smaller set of stimuli that increased proactive interference for the observers. Our findings indicate that long-term memories can influence attention even when executive control is using working memory to guide attention to a different attentional target, challenging current notions of how attention is controlled by memory.
Acknowledgements: NSF grant BCS-2147064