Does working memory load facilitate target detection?

Tom Fruchtman-Steinbok, Yoav Kessler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous studies demonstrated that increasing working memory (WM) load delays performance of a concurrent task, by distracting attention and thus interfering with encoding and maintenance processes. The present study used a version of the change detection task with a target detection requirement during the retention interval. In contrast to the above prediction, target detection was faster following a larger set-size, specifically when presented shortly after the memory array (up to 400. ms). The effect of set-size on target detection was also evident when no memory retention was required. The set-size effect was also found using different modalities. Moreover, it was only observed when the memory array was presented simultaneously, but not sequentially. These results were explained by increased phasic alertness exerted by the larger visual display. The present study offers new evidence of ongoing attentional processes in the commonly-used change detection paradigm.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-18
Number of pages9
JournalActa Psychologica
StatePublished - 1 Feb 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Change detection
  • Phasic alertness
  • Working memory


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