Selection in working memory is resource-demanding: Concurrent task effects on the retro-cue effect

Yin ting Lin, Edyta Sasin, Daryl Fougnie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a retro-cue paradigm, after memorizing a set of objects, people are cued to remember only a subset. Improved memory from the retro-cue suggests that selection processes can benefit items stored in working memory. Does selection in working memory require attention? If so, an attention-demanding task should disrupt retro-cue effects. Studies using a dual-task paradigm have found mixed results, with only one study (Janczyk & Berryhill, Attention, Perception, and Psychophysics, 76 (3), 715–724, 2014) showing a decreased retro-cue effect by a secondary task. Here we explore a potential issue in that study – the temporal overlap of the secondary task response with the memory test presentation. This raises questions about whether the secondary task was impairing selection processes in memory or was impacting the memory response. We replicated their paradigm by inserting a tone discrimination task at the retro-cue offset, but we also included a condition in which the tone task and the memory test were temporally separated. In Experiment 1, performing the tone task did not impair the retro-cue effect. In Experiment 2, we added an articulatory suppression task as in Janczyk and Berryhill’s study, and we found that the requirement to execute the tone task impaired retro-cue effects. This impairment was independent of whether the tone and memory tasks overlapped. These findings suggest that internal prioritization can be impaired by dual-task interference, but may only occur when such interference is robust enough, for example, due to switching between multiple tasks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1600-1612
Number of pages13
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number4
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Attention
  • Dual-task performance
  • Visual working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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