Dissociating distractor-filtering at encoding and during maintenance

Fiona Mcnab, Raymond J. Dolan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)
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The effectiveness of distractor-filtering is a potentially important determinant of working memory capacity (WMC). However, a distinction between the contributions of distractor-filtering at WM encoding as opposed to filtering during maintenance has not been made and the assumption is that these rely on the same mechanism. Within 2 experiments, 1 conducted in the laboratory with 21 participants, and the other played as a game on smartphones (n = 3,247) we measure WMC without distractors, and present distractors during encoding or during the delay period of a WM task to determine performance associated with distraction at encoding and during maintenance. Despite differences in experimental setting and paradigm design between the 2 studies, we show a unique contribution to WMC from both encoding and delay distractor performance in both experiments, while controlling for performance in the absence of distraction. Thus, within 2 separate experiments, 1 involving an extremely large cohort of 3,247 participants, we show a dissociation between encoding and delay distractor-filtering, indicating that separate mechanisms may contribute to WMC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-967
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number3
Early online date10 Feb 2014
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • distraction
  • distractor filtering
  • working memory
  • working memory capacity


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