Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • Embodied cognition: Is activation of the motor cortex essential for understanding action verbs? 20170921
    In 8 experiments using language processing tasks ranging from lexical decision to sensibility judgment, participants made hand or foot responses after reading hand- or foot-associated words such as action verbs. In general, response time (RT) tended to be faster when the hand- versus foot-associated word was compatible with the limb that was required to respond (e.g., hand response to a hand-associated word) than when it was incompatible (e.g., foot response to a hand-associated word). To see whether this compatibility effect reflects differential hand- versus foot-specific motor activation produced by the words, as suggested by some embodied theories of language understanding, we monitored 2 event-related potential (ERP) measures previously found to be sensitive to the activation of these limbs. As expected, the ERP results replicated previous findings that the monitored ERPs differ for hand versus foot movements. More importantly, the ERPs provided no evidence of any difference for hand- versus foot-associated words. Thus, the results weaken previous claims that the understanding of action verbs requires activation of the motor areas used to carry out the named action. Instead, they support claims that language-related compatibility effects on RT may arise prior to motor processes, which implies that such effects are not decisive evidence for embodied language understanding. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • What are the costs of degraded parafoveal previews during silent reading? 20170629
    It has been suggested that the preview benefit effect is actually a combination of preview benefit and preview costs. Marx et al. (2015) proposed that visually degrading the parafoveal preview reduces the costs associated with traditional parafoveal letter masks used in the boundary paradigm (Rayner, 1975), thus leading to a more neutral baseline. We report 2 experiments of skilled adults reading silently. In Experiment 1, we found no compelling evidence that degraded previews reduced processing costs associated with traditional letter masks. Moreover, participants were highly sensitive to detecting degraded display changes. Experiment 2 used the boundary detection paradigm (Slattery, Angele, & Rayner, 2011) to explore whether participants were capable of detecting actual letter changes or if they were responding purely to changes in degradation. Half of the participants were instructed to respond to any noticed display changes; the other half were instructed to respond only to changes in letter identities. Participants were highly sensitive to degraded changes. In fact, these changes were so apparent that they reduced the sensitivity to letter masks. In the context of the model proposed by Angele, Slattery, and Rayner (2016), we suggest that degraded previews interfere with the attentional stage, as evidenced by the general lack of foveal load effects. In summary, we found that increasingly degrading parafoveal letter masks does not reduce their processing costs in adults, but that both degraded valid and invalid previews introduce additional costs in terms of greater display change awareness. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Attending globally or locally: Incidental learning of optimal visual attention allocation. 20170629
    Attention allocation determines the information that is encoded into memory. Can participants learn to optimally allocate attention based on what types of information are most likely to change? The current study examined whether participants could incidentally learn that changes to either high spatial frequency (HSF) or low spatial frequency (LSF) Gabor patches were more probable and to use this incidentally learned probability information to bias attention during encoding. Participants detected changes in orientation in arrays of 6 Gabor patches: 3 HSF and 3 LSF. For half of the participants, an HSF patch changed orientation on 75% of the trials, and for the other half, an LSF patch changed orientation on 75% of the trials. Experiment 1 demonstrated a change probability effect and an attention allocation effect. Specifically, change detection performance was highest for the probable-change type, and participants learned to use a global spread of attention (fixating between Gabor patches) when LSF patches were most likely to change and to use a local allocation of attention (fixating directly on Gabor patches) when HSF patches were most likely to change. Experiments 2 and 3 replicated these effects and demonstrated that an internal monitoring system is sufficient for these effects. That is, the effects do not require explicit feedback or point rewards. This study demonstrates that incidental learning of probability information can affect the allocation of attention during encoding and can therefore affect what information is stored in visual working memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Primacy and recency effects for taste. 20170629
    Historically, much of what we know about human memory has been discovered in experiments using visual and verbal stimuli. In two experiments, participants demonstrated reliably high recognition for nonverbal liquids. In Experiment 1, participants showed high accuracy for recognizing tastes (bitter, salty, sour, sweet) over a 30-s delay in a recognition task, even when the probe stimulus was only a different concentration within the same taste. In Experiment 2, participants tasted three liquids and showed both primacy and recency effects in a serial-position recognition task with varying delay lengths (15, 30, 45, 60 s). Recognition for liquids at the end of a list was most evident with shorter delay lengths (i.e., recency). Recognition for liquids at the start of the list was most evident with longer delay lengths (i.e., primacy). These data show that not only is gustatory information stored and maintained in working memory, but that memory for these liquids follow a recency-to-primacy shift in recognition memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Individual differences in verbal working memory underlie a tradeoff between semantic and structural processing difficulty during language comprehension: An ERP investigation. 20170921
    This study investigated the processes reflected in the widely observed N400 and P600 event-related potential (ERP) effects and tested the hypothesis that the N400 and P600 effects are functionally linked in a tradeoff relationship, constrained in part by individual differences in cognitive ability. Sixty participants read sentences, and ERP effects of semantic anomaly, relative to plausible words, were calculated for each participant. Results suggested qualitatively different ERP patterns across participants: Some individuals generated N400-dominated effects, whereas others generated P600-dominated effects, for the same stimuli. To specify the sources of individual differences in brain responses, we also derived aggregate scores for verbal working memory (WM), nonverbal WM, and language experience/knowledge, based on 6 behavioral measures administered to each participant. Multiple regression analysis pitting these 3 constructs against each other showed that a larger verbal WM capacity was significantly associated with larger P600 and smaller N400 effect amplitudes across individuals, whereas the other constructs did not predict the ERP effects. The results suggest that N400 and P600 brain responses, which may be attributable to semantic integration difficulty and structural processing, respectively, vie for expression when comprehenders encounter semantically unexpected words and that which option wins out is constrained in part by each comprehender’s verbal WM capacity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Individual variability in the semantic processing of English compound words. 20170921
    Semantic transparency effects during compound word recognition provide critical insight into the organization of semantic knowledge and the nature of semantic processing. The past 25 years of psycholinguistic research on compound semantic transparency has produced discrepant effects, leaving the existence and nature of its influence unresolved. In the present study, we examined the influence of semantic transparency and individual reading experience on eye-movement behavior during sentence reading. Eye-movement data were collected from 138 non–college-bound 16- to 26-year-old speakers of English in a sentence-reading task representing a total of 455 different compound words. Measures of individual differences in reading experience were collected from the same participants and consisted of standardized assessments of exposure to printed materials, vocabulary size, and word recognition skill. Statistical analyses revealed facilitatory effects of both Modifier-Compound and Head-Compound transparency throughout the eye-movement record. Moreover, the study reports interactions between Head-Compound transparency and measures of reading experience. Readers with a small amount exposure to printed materials and a limited vocabulary size exhibited slower processing in late eye-movement measures when reading highly transparent compounds relative to opaque compounds. The opposite effect was observed for readers with a relatively large amount of exposure to printed materials and a relatively larger vocabulary size, such that highly transparent compounds facilitated lexical processing. To account for the results, the authors posit a trade-off between 2 cognitive mechanisms, which is modulated by individual reading experience; that is, the benefit of semantic coactivation of closely related concepts, and the cost of discriminating between those concepts. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Neural bases of automaticity. 20170921
    Automaticity allows us to perform tasks in a fast, efficient, and effortless manner after sufficient practice. Theories of automaticity propose that across practice processing transitions from being controlled by working memory to being controlled by long-term memory retrieval. Recent event-related potential (ERP) studies have sought to test this prediction, however, these experiments did not use the canonical paradigms used to study automaticity. Specifically, automaticity is typically studied using practice regimes with consistent mapping between targets and distractors and spaced practice with individual targets, features that these previous studies lacked. The aim of the present work was to examine whether the practice-induced shift from working memory to long-term memory inferred from subjects’ ERPs is observed under the conditions in which automaticity is traditionally studied. We found that to be the case in 3 experiments, firmly supporting the predictions of theories. In addition, we found that the temporal distribution of practice (massed vs. spaced) modulates the shape of learning curves. The ERP data revealed that the switch to long-term memory is slower for spaced than massed practice, suggesting that memory systems are used in a strategic manner. This finding provides new constraints for theories of learning and automaticity. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Generating lies produces lower memory predictions and higher memory performance than telling the truth: Evidence for a metacognitive illusion. 20170921
    Manipulations that induce disfluency during encoding generally produce lower memory predictions for the disfluent condition than for the fluent condition. Similar to other manipulations of disfluency, generating lies takes longer and requires more mental effort than does telling the truth; hence, a manipulation of lie generation might produce patterns similar to other types of fluency for memory predictions. The current study systematically investigates the effect of a lie-generation manipulation on both actual and predicted memory performance. In a series of experiments, participants told the truth or generated plausible lies to general knowledge questions and made item-by-item predictions about their subsequent memory performance during encoding, followed by a free recall test. Participants consistently predicted their memory performance to be higher for truth than for lies (Experiments 1 through 4), despite their typically superior actual memory performance for lies than for the truth (Experiments 1 through 3), producing double dissociations between memory and metamemory. Moreover, lying led to longer response latencies than did telling the truth, showing that generating lies is in fact objectively more disfluent. An additional experiment compared memory predictions for truth and lie trials via a scenario about the lie-generation manipulation used in the present study, which revealed superior memory predictions of truth than of lies, providing proof for a priori beliefs about the effects of lying on predicted memory (Experiment 5). The effects of the current lie-generation manipulation on metamemory are discussed in light of experience-based and theory-based processes on making judgments of learning. Theoretical and practical implications of this experimental paradigm are also considered. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2018 APA, all rights reserved)

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