Value conditioning modulates visual working memory processes

Paul Thomas, Lily FitzGibbon, Jane Raymond

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
200 Downloads (Pure)


Learning allows the value of motivationally salient events to become associated with stimuli that predict those events. Here, we asked whether value associations could facilitate visual working memory (WM), and whether such effects would be valence dependent. Our experiment was specifically designed to isolate value-based effects on WM from value-based effects on selective attention that might be expected to bias encoding. In a simple associative learning task, participants learned to associate the color of tinted faces with gaining or losing money or neither. Tinted faces then served as memoranda in a face identity WM task for which previously learned color-associations were irrelevant and no monetary outcomes were forthcoming. Memory was best for faces with gain-associated tints, poorest for faces with loss-associated tints, and average for faces with no-outcome associated tints. Value associated with one item in the WM array did not modulate memory for other items in the array. Eye movements when studying faces did not depend on the valence of previously learned color associations, arguing against value-based biases being due to differential encoding. This valence-sensitive value conditioning effect on WM appears to result from modulation of WM maintenance processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)6-10
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2016


  • Working Memory
  • Value Learning
  • Eye movements
  • Vision
  • Attention


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