Trial distinctiveness in visuospatial working memory: effects on individual differences

Lindsey Lilienthal, Victoria R. Denz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Previous research has shown that proactive interference (PI) negatively affects performance on working memory (WM) tasks, particularly when to-be-remembered items are similar across trials, and that individuals with low WM spans are more susceptible to PI than those with high spans. The two experiments of the present study further explored individual differences in susceptibility to PI in the visuospatial domain. The similarity of the to-be-remembered locations was manipulated across trials by varying whether locations were presented in different colours and/or accompanied by unique sounds. It was hypothesised that these manipulations would reduce PI, improving participants’ memory. In addition, because of their increased susceptibility to PI, it also was hypothesised that low spans would benefit more than high spans from increases in distinctiveness. The results of both experiments were consistent with these hypotheses, suggesting that even low-span individuals can overcome the effects of PI, given the right task support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)683-690
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Cognitive Psychology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 3 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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