Two studies tested whether a mindset manipulation would affect the filtering of distractors from entering visual working memory (VWM). In Study 1, participants completed a concrete mindset manipulation (by repeatedly describing how to perform an action), an abstract mindset manipulation (by repeatedly describing why to perform an action), and a baseline condition (no manipulation). In Study 2, some participants completed a concrete mindset manipulation, whereas others completed an abstract manipulation. Filtering efficiency was estimated by a change-detection task that included a condition with distractors alongside targets. We derived our prediction from construal-level theory (CLT), according to which concrete representations retain information regardless of its relevance, whereas abstract representations retain the relevant and omit the irrelevant elements of an input array. In a task that requires attending to task-relevant targets and ignoring task-irrelevant distractors in a visual array, concrete processing should impair performance relative to abstract processing. We therefore predicted that a concrete mindset would reduce filtering efficiency as compared to an abstract mindset. Consistent with our hypothesis, we found that a concrete mindset manipulation reduced filtering efficiency, as compared to both an abstract mindset manipulation (Studies 1 and 2) and the baseline condition (Study 1). These results suggest a new factor that may contribute to both individual differences and situational variation in working memory performance.
- Construal level theory
- Visual working memory