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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • Flexible retrieval: When true inferences produce false memories.
    Episodic memory involves flexible retrieval processes that allow us to link together distinct episodes, make novel inferences across overlapping events, and recombine elements of past experiences when imagining future events. However, the same flexible retrieval and recombination processes that underpin these adaptive functions may also leave memory prone to error or distortion, such as source misattributions in which details of one event are mistakenly attributed to another related event. To determine whether the same recombination-related retrieval mechanism supports both successful inference and source memory errors, we developed a modified version of an associative inference paradigm in which participants encoded everyday scenes comprised of people, objects, and other contextual details. These scenes contained overlapping elements (AB, BC) that could later be linked to support novel inferential retrieval regarding elements that had not appeared together previously (AC). Our critical experimental manipulation concerned whether contextual details were probed before or after the associative inference test, thereby allowing us to assess whether (a) false memories increased for successful versus unsuccessful inferences, and (b) any such effects were specific to after compared with before participants received the inference test. In each of 4 experiments that used variants of this paradigm, participants were more susceptible to false memories for contextual details after successful than unsuccessful inferential retrieval, but only when contextual details were probed after the associative inference test. These results suggest that the retrieval-mediated recombination mechanism that underlies associative inference also contributes to source misattributions that result from combining elements of distinct episodes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Conceptual match as a determinant of reference reuse in dialogue.
    As speakers interact, they add references to their common ground, which they can then reuse to facilitate listener comprehension. However, all references are not equally likely to be reused. The purpose of this study was to shed light on how the speakers’ conceptualizations of the referents under discussion affect reuse (along with a generation effect in memory documented in previous studies on dialogic reuse). Two experiments were conducted in which participants interactively added references to their common ground. From each participant’s point of view, these references either did or did not match their own conceptualization of the referents discussed, and were either self- or partner-generated. Although self-generated references were more readily accessible in memory than partner-generated ones (Experiment 1), reference reuse was mainly guided by conceptualization (Experiment 2). These results are in line with the idea that several different cues (conceptual match, memory accessibility) constrain reference reuse in dialogue. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The magic of words reconsidered: Investigating the automaticity of reading color-neutral words in the Stroop task.
    In 2 variants of the color-word Stroop task, we compared 5 types of color-neutral distractors—real words (e.g., HAT), pseudowords (e.g., HIX), consonant strings (e.g., HDK), symbol strings (e.g., #$%), and a row of Xs (e.g., XXX)—as well as incongruent color words (e.g., GREEN displayed in red). When participants named the color, relative to a row of Xs, words and pseudowords interfered equally and more than the consonant strings, which in turn interfered more than the symbols. In contrast, when participants identified the color by manual key-press responses, all 5 types of neutral strings produced equal color response latencies. In both tasks, the incongruent color words produced robust interference relative to the color-neutral words. Reaction time (RT) distribution analyses showed that all interference effects (relative to the row of Xs) increased across the quantiles. We interpret these results in terms of an evidence accumulation process in which the interfering distractor reduces the effective rate of evidence accumulation for the color target. We take the results to argue that the task of reading, even when triggered unintentionally, is not an invariant process driven solely by the stimulus properties, and is instead guided by the task goal. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Is conflict adaptation due to active regulation or passive carry-over? Evidence from eye movements.
    Conflict-adaptation effects (i.e., reduced response-time costs on high-conflict trials following high-conflict trials) supposedly represent our cognitive system’s ability to regulate itself according to current processing demands. However, currently it is not clear whether these effects reflect conflict-triggered, active regulation, or passive carry-over of previous-trial control settings. We used eye movements to examine whether the degree of experienced conflict modulates conflict-adaptation effects, as the conflict-triggered regulation view predicts. Across 2 experiments in which participants had to identify a target stimulus based on an endogenous cue while—on conflict trials—having to resist a sudden-onset distractor, we found a clear indication of conflict adaptation. This adaptation effect disappeared however, when participants inadvertently fixated the sudden-onset distractor on the previous trial—that is, when they experienced a high degree of conflict. This pattern of results suggests that conflict adaptation can be explained parsimoniously in terms of a broader memory process that retains recently adopted control settings across trials. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • There are limits to the effects of task instructions: Making the automatic effects of task instructions context-specific takes practice.
    Unlike other animals, humans have the unique ability to share and use verbal instructions to prepare for upcoming tasks. Recent research showed that instructions are sufficient for the automatic, reflex-like activation of responses. However, systematic studies into the limits of these automatic effects of task instructions remain relatively scarce. In this study, the authors set out to investigate whether this instruction-based automatic activation of responses can be context-dependent. Specifically, participants performed a task of which the stimulus-response rules and context (location on the screen) could either coincide or not with those of an instructed to-be-performed task (whose instructions changed every run). In 2 experiments, the authors showed that the instructed task rules had an automatic impact on performance—performance was slowed down when the merely instructed task rules did not coincide, but, importantly, this effect was not context-dependent. Interestingly, a third and fourth experiment suggests that context dependency can actually be observed, but only when practicing the task in its appropriate context for over 60 trials or after a sufficient amount of practice on a fixed context (the context was the same for all instructed tasks). Together, these findings seem to suggest that instructions can establish stimulus-response representations that have a reflexive impact on behavior but are insensitive to the context in which the task is known to be valid. Instead, context-specific task representations seem to require practice. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Out of place, out of mind: Schema-driven false memory effects for object-location bindings.
    Events consist of diverse elements, each processed in specialized neocortical networks, with temporal lobe memory systems binding these elements to form coherent event memories. We provide a novel theoretical analysis of an unexplored consequence of the independence of memory systems for elements and their bindings, 1 that raises the paradoxical prediction that schema-driven false memories can act solely on the binding of event elements despite the superior retrieval of individual elements. This is because if 2, or more, schema-relevant elements are bound together in unexpected conjunctions, the unexpected conjunction will increase attention during encoding to both the elements and their bindings, but only the bindings will receive competition with evoked schema-expected bindings. We test our model by examining memory for object-location bindings in recognition (Study 1) and recall (Studies 2 and 3) tasks. After studying schema-relevant objects in unexpected locations (e.g., pan on a stool in a kitchen scene), participants who then viewed these objects in expected locations (e.g., pan on stove) at test were more likely to falsely remember this object-location pairing as correct, compared with participants that viewed a different unexpected object-location pairing (e.g., pan on floor). In recall, participants were more likely to correctly remember individual schema-relevant objects originally viewed in unexpected, as opposed to expected locations, but were then more likely to misplace these items in the original room scene to expected places, relative to control schema-irrelevant objects. Our theoretical analysis and novel paradigm provide a tool for investigating memory distortions acting on binding processes. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The effect of semantic transparency on the processing of morphologically derived words: Evidence from decision latencies and event-related potentials.
    Decomposition theories of morphological processing in visual word recognition posit an early morpho-orthographic parser that is blind to semantic information, whereas parallel distributed processing (PDP) theories assume that the transparency of orthographic-semantic relationships influences processing from the beginning. To test these alternatives, the performance of participants on transparent (foolish), quasi-transparent (bookish), opaque (vanish), and orthographic control words (bucket) was examined in a series of 5 experiments. In Experiments 1–3 variants of a masked priming lexical-decision task were used; Experiment 4 used a masked priming semantic decision task, and Experiment 5 used a single-word (nonpriming) semantic decision task with a color-boundary manipulation. In addition to the behavioral data, event-related potential (ERP) data were collected in Experiments 1, 2, 4, and 5. Across all experiments, we observed a graded effect of semantic transparency in behavioral and ERP data, with the largest effect for semantically transparent words, the next largest for quasi-transparent words, and the smallest for opaque words. The results are discussed in terms of decomposition versus PDP approaches to morphological processing. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The influence of a word’s number of letters, spatial extent, and initial bigram characteristics on eye movement control during reading: Evidence from Arabic.
    The authors conducted 2 eye movement experiments in which they used the typographical and linguistic properties of Arabic to disentangle the influences of words’ number of letters and spatial extent on measures of fixation duration and saccade targeting (Experiment 1), and to investigate the influence of initial bigram characteristics on saccade targeting during reading (Experiment 2). In the first experiment, through the use of a proportional font, which is more natural-looking in Arabic compared to monospaced fonts, the authors manipulated the number of letters (5 vs. 7) and the spatial extent (wide vs. narrow) of words embedded in frame sentences. The results obtained replicate and expand upon previous findings in other alphabetic languages that the number of letters influences fixation durations, whereas saccade targeting (as indicated by measures of fixation count and probability of skipping and refixation) is more influenced by the word’s spatial extent. In the second experiment, the authors compared saccade targeting measures (saccade amplitude and initial fixation location) in 6- and 7-letter words beginning with initial bigrams that were of extremely high frequency (ال the), relatively high frequency (لل to/for the), or beginning with the letters of the word stem. The results showed negligible modulation of saccade targeting by initial bigram characteristics. The results also highlighted the importance of selecting the appropriate measures of initial fixation location (spatial vs. character-based measures) during reading text rendered using proportional fonts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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