Competition shapes spatial coding strategy for selective attention inside visual working memory: insights from gaze and neural measurements

Poster Presentation: Sunday, May 19, 2024, 8:30 am – 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Attention: Spatial selection 1

Baiwei Liu1 (), Zampeta-Sofia Alexopoulou1, Anne Zonneveld1, Freek van Ede1; 1Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Selective attention enables us to prioritise task-relevant visual information, including among internal visual contents held in working memory. Studies targeting the foundational mechanisms of selective attention often consider situations where to-be-attended and to-be-ignored visual contents are presented or memorised in distinct directions from fixation – rendering direction sufficient for selection. Yet, in everyday life, direction alone is typically insufficient for selection, such as when multiple potential objects of visual attention compete along any given direction. To gain insight into the mechanisms of selective attention when direction is sufficient versus insufficient for selection, we cued participants to select memorised visual items that were encoded near or far from fixation while manipulating whether direction was sufficient (no competition along direction) or insufficient (competition along direction) for selection. Using fixational gaze behaviour and EEG-alpha lateralisation as read-outs of selective attention, we unveil the principle of ‘efficient spatial coding’, whereby selective attention in visual working memory considers just direction when sufficient and incorporates the distance of the attended memory target only when necessary.

Acknowledgements: This work was supported by an NWO Vidi Grant from the Dutch Research Council (14721) and by an ERC Starting Grant from the European Research Council (MEMTICIPATION, 850636) to F.v.E.