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Visual mental imagery resembles visual working memory (VWM). Because both visual mental imagery and VWM involve the representation and manipulation of visual information, it was hypothesized that they would exert similar effects on visual attention. Several previous studies have demonstrated that working-memory representations guide attention toward a memory-matching task-irrelevant stimulus during visual-search tasks. Therefore, mental imagery may also guide attention toward imagery-matching stimuli. In the present study, five experiments were conducted to investigate the effects of visual mental imagery on visual attention during a visual-search task. Participants were instructed to visualize a color or an object clearly associated with a specific color, after which they were asked to detect a colored target in the visual-search task. Reaction times for target detection were shorter when the color of the target matched the imagined color, and when the color of the target was similar to that strongly associated with the imagined object, than when the color of the target did not match that of the mental representation. This effect was not observed when participants were not instructed to imagine a color. These results suggest that similar to VWM, visual mental imagery guides attention toward imagery-matching stimuli.
This article was published in the following journal.
Name: Attention, perception & psychophysics
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