The role of attention in binding visual features in working memory: evidence from cognitive ageing

Louise A. Brown, James R. Brockmole

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99 Citations (Scopus)
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Two experiments were conducted to assess the costs of attentional load during a feature (colour-shape) binding task in younger and older adults. Experiment 1 showed that a demanding backwards counting task, which draws upon central executive/general attentional resources, reduced binding to a greater extent than individual feature memory, but the effect was no greater in older than in younger adults. Experiment 2 showed that presenting memory items sequentially rather than simultaneously, such that items are required to be maintained while new representations are created, selectively affects binding performance in both age groups. Although this experiment exhibited an age-related binding deficit overall, both age groups were affected by the attention manipulation to an equal extent. While a role for attentional processes in colour-shape binding was apparent across both experiments, manipulations of attention exerted equal effects in both age groups. We therefore conclude that age-related binding deficits neither emerge nor are exacerbated under conditions of high attentional load. Implications for theories of visual working memory and cognitive ageing are discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2067-2079
Number of pages13
JournalQuarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Issue number10
Early online date4 May 2010
Publication statusPublished - 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • adolescent
  • aged
  • aging
  • cognition
  • colour Perception
  • female
  • memory, short-term
  • neuropsychological tests
  • pattern recognition, visual
  • photic stimulation
  • reaction time
  • young adult


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