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Visual attention is responsible for orienting our focus to relevant stimuli, meaning manipulation of the limited attentional resources could have the potential to improve memory encoding. When images were presented according to an inhibition of return (IOR) cueing paradigm, Markant, Worden, and Amso (2015) found that the strength of simultaneous attentional facilitation and suppression each correlated with improved memory results for non-cued target images, suggesting that inhibition of a distractor led to simultaneous improvement of attention to the target, causing the memory increase. In our experiment, we performed a similar task to Markant, Worden, and Amso (2015), instead using EEG analysis to determine the role of attention on these memory effects. We found reaction time differences characteristic of IOR that were absent in the facilitation task, but both tasks had significant improvement of recognition memory for target images presented in non-cued conditions. We observed that the N1 mean amplitude was larger for images in the non-cued location compared to the cued location in the IOR task and Facilitation task. Alpha oscillation analysis showed that targets had significantly less alpha spectral power than distractors for both tasks. In addition, non-cued targets for both tasks had significantly lower alpha than the respective distractors, which possibly contributes to the increased recognition for the non-cued target seen for both tasks. Overall, the mirrored results for both tasks suggest that our facilitation task failed to differentially incite attentional mechanisms as designed, but that attentional manipulation may contribute to better memory of non-cued target images.
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