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Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • Modulation of task demands suggests that semantic processing interferes with the formation of episodic associations.
    Although episodic and semantic memory share overlapping neural mechanisms, it remains unclear how our pre-existing semantic associations modulate the formation of new, episodic associations. When freely recalling recently studied words, people rely on both episodic and semantic associations, shown through temporal and semantic clustering of responses. We asked whether orienting participants toward semantic associations interferes with or facilitates the formation of episodic associations. We compared electroencephalographic (EEG) activity recorded during the encoding of subsequently recalled words that were either temporally or semantically clustered. Participants studied words with or without a concurrent semantic orienting task. We identified a neural signature of successful episodic association formation whereby high-frequency EEG activity (HFA, 44–100 Hz) overlying left prefrontal regions increased for subsequently temporally clustered words, but only for those words studied without a concurrent semantic orienting task. To confirm that this disruption in the formation of episodic associations was driven by increased semantic processing, we measured the neural correlates of subsequent semantic clustering. We found that HFA increased for subsequently semantically clustered words only for lists with a concurrent semantic orienting task. This dissociation suggests that increased semantic processing of studied items interferes with the neural processes that support the formation of novel episodic associations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Not all order memory is equal: Test demands reveal dissociations in memory for sequence information.
    Remembering the order of a sequence of events is a fundamental feature of episodic memory. Indeed, a number of formal models represent temporal context as part of the memory system, and memory for order has been researched extensively. Yet, the nature of the code(s) underlying sequence memory is still relatively unknown. Across 4 experiments that manipulated encoding task, we found evidence for 3 dissociable facets of order memory. Experiment 1 introduced a test requiring a judgment of which of 2 alternatives had immediately followed a word during encoding. This measure revealed better retention of interitem associations following relational encoding (silent reading) than relatively item-specific encoding (judging referent size), a pattern consistent with that observed in previous research using order reconstruction tests. In sharp contrast, Experiment 2 demonstrated the reverse pattern: Memory for the studied order of 2 sequentially presented items was actually better following item-specific encoding than following relational encoding. Experiment 3 reproduced this dissociation in a single experiment using both tests. Experiment 4 extended these findings by further dissociating the roles of relational encoding and item strength in the 2 tests. Taken together, these results indicate that memory for event sequence is influenced by (a) interitem associations, (b) the emphasized directionality of an association, and (c) an item’s strength independent of other items. Memory for order is more complicated than has been portrayed in theories of memory and its nuances should be carefully considered when designing tests and models of temporal and relational memory. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Prospective memory in context: Moving through a familiar space.
    Successful completion of delayed intentions is a common but important aspect of daily behavior. Such behavior requires not only memory for the intended action but also recognition of the opportunity to perform that action, known collectively as prospective memory. The fact that prospective memory tasks occur in the midst of other activities is captured in laboratory tasks by embedding the prospective memory task in an ongoing activity. In many cases the requirement to perform the prospective memory task results in a reduction in ongoing performance relative to when the ongoing task is performed alone. This is referred to as the cost to the ongoing task and reflects the allocation of attentional resources to the prospective memory task. The current study examined the pattern of cost across the ongoing task when the ongoing task provided contextual information that in turn allowed participants to anticipate when target events would occur within the ongoing task. The availability of contextual information reduced ongoing task response times overall, with an increase in response times closer to the target locations (Experiments 1–3). The fourth study, drawing on the Event Segmentation Theory, provided support for the proposal made by the Preparatory Attentional and Memory Processes theory of prospective memory that decisions about the allocation of attention to the prospective memory task are more likely to be made at points of transition. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The memory state heuristic: A formal model based on repeated recognition judgments.
    The recognition heuristic (RH) theory predicts that, in comparative judgment tasks, if one object is recognized and the other is not, the recognized one is chosen. The memory-state heuristic (MSH) extends the RH by assuming that choices are not affected by recognition judgments per se, but by the memory states underlying these judgments (i.e., recognition certainty, uncertainty, or rejection certainty). Specifically, the larger the discrepancy between memory states, the larger the probability of choosing the object in the higher state. The typical RH paradigm does not allow estimation of the underlying memory states because it is unknown whether the objects were previously experienced or not. Therefore, we extended the paradigm by repeating the recognition task twice. In line with high threshold models of recognition, we assumed that inconsistent recognition judgments result from uncertainty whereas consistent judgments most likely result from memory certainty. In Experiment 1, we fitted 2 nested multinomial models to the data: an MSH model that formalizes the relation between memory states and binary choices explicitly and an approximate model that ignores the (unlikely) possibility of consistent guesses. Both models provided converging results. As predicted, reliance on recognition increased with the discrepancy in the underlying memory states. In Experiment 2, we replicated these results and found support for choice consistency predictions of the MSH. Additionally, recognition and choice latencies were in agreement with the MSH in both experiments. Finally, we validated critical parameters of our MSH model through a cross-validation method and a third experiment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Separate capacities for storing different features in visual working memory.
    Recent empirical and theoretical work suggests that visual features such as color and orientation can be stored or retrieved independently in visual working memory (VWM), even in cases when they belong to the same object. Yet it remains unclear whether different feature dimensions have their own capacity limits, or whether they compete for shared but limited resources in VWM. In 3 experiments, participants memorized arrays of dual-feature objects, for which the number of feature values was fixed on one feature dimension and was varied on the other feature dimension. The results show that memory performance on the fixed dimension was not affected by the number of to-be-stored feature values on the other. These findings provide converging evidence that visual features can be encoded and stored separately in VWM if the task requires it, with each having its own capacity limit and little cross-dimensional interference. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Joint attention enhances visual working memory.
    Joint attention—the mutual focus of 2 individuals on an item—speeds detection and discrimination of target information. However, what happens to that information beyond the initial perceptual episode? To fully comprehend and engage with our immediate environment also requires working memory (WM), which integrates information from second to second to create a coherent and fluid picture of our world. Yet, no research exists at present that examines how joint attention directly impacts WM. To investigate this, we created a unique paradigm that combines gaze cues with a traditional visual WM task. A central, direct gaze ‘cue’ face looked left or right, followed 500 ms later by 4, 6, or 8 colored squares presented on one side of the face for encoding. Crucially, the cue face either looked at the squares (valid cue) or looked away from them (invalid cue). A no shift (direct gaze) condition served as a baseline. After a blank 1,000 ms maintenance interval, participants stated whether a single test square color was present or not in the preceding display. WM accuracy was significantly greater for colors encoded in the valid versus invalid and direct conditions. Further experiments showed that an arrow cue and a low-level motion cue—both shown to reliably orient attention—did not reliably modulate WM, indicating that social cues are more powerful. This study provides the first direct evidence that sharing the focus of another individual establishes a point of reference from which information is advantageously encoded into WM. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Disentangling the developmental trajectories of letter position and letter identity coding using masked priming.
    Masked transposed-letter (TL) priming effects have been used to index letter position processing over the course of reading development. Whereas some studies have reported an increase in TL priming over development, others have reported a decrease. These findings have led to the development of 2 somewhat contradictory accounts of letter position development: the lexical tuning hypothesis and the multiple-route model. One factor that may be contributing to these discrepancies is the use of baseline primes that substitute letters in the target word, which may confound the effect of changes in letter position processing over development with those of letter identity. The present study included an identity prime (e.g., listen—LISTEN), in addition to the standard two-substituted-letter (2SL; e.g., lidfen—LISTEN) and all-letter-different (ALD; e.g., rodfup—LISTEN) baselines, to remove the potential confound between letter position and letter identity information in determining the effect of the TL prime. Priming effects were measured in a lexical decision task administered to children aged 7–12 and a group of university students. Using inverse transformed response times, targets preceded by a TL prime were responded to significantly faster than those preceded by 2SL and ALD primes, and priming remained stable across development. In contrast, targets preceded by a TL prime were responded to significantly slower than those preceded by an ID prime, and this reaction-time cost increased significantly over development, with adults showing the largest cost. These findings are consistent with a lexical tuning account of letter position development, and are inconsistent with the multiple-route model. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Is it all task-specific? The role of binary responses, verbal mediation, and saliency for eliciting language-space associations.
    Associations between language and space are of central interest for grounded models of language comprehension. Various studies show that reading words such as bird or shoe results in faster responses toward the typical location of the corresponding entity (e.g., after bird, upward responses are faster than downward responses). Critically, as of yet, the mechanisms underlying these effects and their boundary conditions are widely unknown. In fact, it cannot be ruled out that these effects are by-products of processing that only occur in very specific task settings. Here we investigated the role of 3 major processes (response set, labeling, and saliency) that might underlie these compatibility effects in Stroop-like paradigms. In Experiment 1, we aimed at overcoming the binary nature of the response set by including responses both in the vertical and the horizontal dimension. In Experiment 2 no memorizing of the color-to-response mapping was required, making internal response labeling unnecessary. In Experiment 3 this was replicated in a mouse-tracking setup. In all experiments a clear language-space association was observed. Critically, in a final experiment not only the saliency of verticality in the response set but also in the stimulus set was reduced. Here no language-space association was observed. Together these results suggest that language-space associations extend beyond bipolar response settings and that internal response labeling is not a precondition for finding these compatibility effects. However, the vertical dimension needs to be salient either in the stimulus or response set. Implications for models of language comprehension are discussed. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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