The working memory stroop effect: when internal representations clash with external stimuli.
Working memory (WM) has recently been described as internally directed attention, which implies that WM content should affect behavior exactly like an externally perceived and attended stimulus. We tested whether holding a color word in WM, rather than attending to it in the external environment, can produce interference in a color-discrimination task, which would mimic the classic Stroop effect. Over three experiments, the WM Stroop effect recapitulated core properties of the classic attentional Stroop effect, displaying equivalent congruency effects, additive contributions from stimulus- and response-level congruency, and susceptibility to modulation by the percentage of congruent and incongruent trials. Moreover, WM maintenance was inversely related to attentional demands during the WM delay between stimulus presentation and recall, with poorer memory performance following incongruent than congruent trials. Together, these results suggest that WM and attention rely on the same resources and operate over the same representations.
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