Can cognitive load enhance concentration on task-relevant information and help filter out distractors? Most of the prior research in the area of selective attention has focused on visual attention or cross-modal distraction and has yielded controversial results. Here, we studied whether working memory load can facilitate selective attention when both target and distractor stimuli are auditory. We used a letter n-back task with four levels of working memory load and two levels of distraction: congruent and incongruent distractors. This combination of updating and inhibition tasks allowed us to manipulate working memory load within the selective attention task. Participants sat in front of three loudspeakers and were asked to attend to the letter presented from the central loudspeaker while ignoring that presented from the flanking ones (spoken by a different person), which could be the same letter as the central one (congruent) or a different (incongruent) letter. Their task was to respond whether or not the central letter matched the letter presented n (0, 1, 2, or 3) trials back. Distraction was measured in terms of the difference in reaction time and accuracy on trials with incongruent versus congruent flankers. We found reduced interference from incongruent flankers in 2- and 3-back conditions compared to 0- and 1-back conditions, whereby higher working memory load almost negated the effect of incongruent flankers. These results suggest that high load on verbal working memory can facilitate inhibition of distractors in the auditory domain rather than make it more difficult as sometimes claimed.

Auditory selective attention under working memory load

Bayramova R.;Toffalini E.;Bonato M.
;
Grassi M.
2021

Abstract

Can cognitive load enhance concentration on task-relevant information and help filter out distractors? Most of the prior research in the area of selective attention has focused on visual attention or cross-modal distraction and has yielded controversial results. Here, we studied whether working memory load can facilitate selective attention when both target and distractor stimuli are auditory. We used a letter n-back task with four levels of working memory load and two levels of distraction: congruent and incongruent distractors. This combination of updating and inhibition tasks allowed us to manipulate working memory load within the selective attention task. Participants sat in front of three loudspeakers and were asked to attend to the letter presented from the central loudspeaker while ignoring that presented from the flanking ones (spoken by a different person), which could be the same letter as the central one (congruent) or a different (incongruent) letter. Their task was to respond whether or not the central letter matched the letter presented n (0, 1, 2, or 3) trials back. Distraction was measured in terms of the difference in reaction time and accuracy on trials with incongruent versus congruent flankers. We found reduced interference from incongruent flankers in 2- and 3-back conditions compared to 0- and 1-back conditions, whereby higher working memory load almost negated the effect of incongruent flankers. These results suggest that high load on verbal working memory can facilitate inhibition of distractors in the auditory domain rather than make it more difficult as sometimes claimed.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/11577/3357451
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