Does working memory capacity correlate with processing of auditory distractors under low versus high visual load?

University essay from Stockholms universitet/Psykologiska institutionen

Abstract: Individuals with high working memory capacity (WMC) appear to be particularly good at focusing their attention (McCabe, Roediger, McDaniel, Balota, & Hambrick, 2010). Therefore, we studied the correlation between WMC and the ability to suppress neurological activity from a task-irrelevant stimulus. The research question tests the foundations of Lavie’s perceptual load theory; that early selection occurs, by testing if higher WMC enhances people’s ability to inhibit processing of task-irrelevant stimuli from low versus high load (i.e. the difference from low to high load should be smaller for high WMC than for low WMC). This was operationalised by measuring the correlation of WMC and auditory processing under low versus high visual load. Auditory processing was measured with auditory steady state responses (ASSR), and WMC was measured with an operation-letter span task. The results showed no significant correlation between WMC and ability to suppress task-irrelevant stimuli. Based on the data, it is not possible to conclude with certainty that effects of load on auditory processing are unaffected by WMC, because confidence intervals were large.

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