Barriers block the effect of joint attention on working memory: Perspective taking matters

Samantha E. A. Gregory, Margaret C. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Joint focus of attention between two individuals can influence the way that observers attend, encode, and value items. Using a nonpredictive gaze cuing task we previously found that working memory (WM) was better for jointly attended (validly cued) versus invalidly cued colored squares. Here we examine whether this influence of gaze on WM is driven by observers sharing the perspective of the face cue (mental state account), or simply by increased attention to the cued location (social attention account). To manipulate perspective taking, a closed barrier obstructed the cue face’s view of the memoranda, while an open barrier allowed the cue face to “see” the colors. A central cue face flanked by two identical barriers looked left or right, followed 500 ms later by colored squares for encoding which appeared equally often in the validly and invalidly cued locations. After a blank 1000 ms maintenance interval, participants stated whether a probe color was present or not in the preceding display. When the barrier was open, WM was significantly impaired for invalidly versus validly cued items. When the barrier was closed, the effect of gaze cues on WM was abolished. In contrast, further experiments showed a significant cuing effect on the speed of simple target localization and color discrimination regardless of barrier type. These findings support the mental state account of joint attention in WM, whereby the attentional focus of another alters WM via higher level engagement with the second person perspective. A goal-specific model of perspective taking is proposed.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)795–806
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date19 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019

Bibliographical note

©American Psychological Association, 2018. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at: DOI 10.1037/xlm0000622


Dive into the research topics of 'Barriers block the effect of joint attention on working memory: Perspective taking matters'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this