Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • The importance of arousal for variation in working memory capacity and attention control: A latent variable pupillometry study. 20170515
    A great deal of prior research has examined the relation between working memory capacity (WMC) and attention control. The current study explored the role of arousal in individual differences in WMC and attention control. Participants performed multiple WMC and attention control tasks. During the attention control tasks participants were periodically probed regarding their current attentional state and both baseline and task-evoked pupillary responses were recorded as indicators of tonic arousal and phasic arousal because of attentional effort, respectively. Latent variable analyses demonstrated that variability in both baseline pupil diameter and task-evoked responses was related to WMC, attention control, and off-task thinking. Furthermore, structural equation models suggested that variability in both baseline pupil diameter and task-evoked pupillary responses predicted off-task thinking, which in turn predicted variation in WMC and attention control. These results provide important evidence linking moment-to-moment fluctuations in arousal to individual differences in WMC and attention control. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The cause of category-based distortions in spatial memory: A distribution analysis. 20170515
    Recall of remembered locations reliably reflects a compromise between a target’s true position and its region’s prototypical position. The effect is quite robust, and a standard interpretation for these data is that the metric and categorical codings blend in a Bayesian combinatory fashion. However, there has been no direct experimental evidence that the 2 codings are actually combined. That is, at least 2 mechanisms can produce biased mean responses: (a) people may in fact take a weighted average of the metric and categorical representations, but (b) these 2 codings may instead compete for response, each winning with a certain probability. The present work investigated these 2 hypotheses for the cause of category-based distortions using a new distribution analysis. Participants viewed a target within a blank circle and reproduced its location after a short delay. The error data for individual participants were fit with a kernel curve, which provides a distribution without the assumption of normality. Almost all individual distributions displayed a clear biased main peak, indicating a weighted average between the representations, not an alteration between the 2 representations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Working memory facilitates insight instead of hindering it: Comment on DeCaro, Van Stockum, and Wieth (2016). 20171214
    The “nothing-special” account of insight predicts positive correlations of insight problem solving and working memory capacity (WMC), whereas the “special-process” account expects no, or even negative, correlations. In the latter vein, DeCaro, Van Stockum Jr., and Wieth (2016) have recently reported weak negative WMC correlations with 2 constraint relaxation matchstick problems and 3 insight problems, and thus they claim that WM hinders insight. Here, we report on 3 studies that investigated WMC and various matchstick and classical problems (including 1 study that precisely replicated DeCaro et al.’s procedure). All 3 studies yielded moderate positive correlations of WMC with both the constraint relaxation and the classical problems. WMC explained 10% variance in problem solving, no matter what problems were used or how they were applied. Thus, DeCaro et al.’s claim that WM hinders insight is unwarranted. The opposite is true: WM facilitates insight. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • The relationship between working memory and insight depends on moderators: Reply to Chuderski and Jastrzêbski (2017). 20171214
    Chuderski and Jastrzêbski (2017) found a positive relationship between working memory capacity and insight problem solving, and concluded that “people with less effective cognition” are therefore “less creative” (p. 2003). This interpretation discounts substantial evidence that devoting less executive control facilitates insight. We develop an initial framework for understanding these contradictory findings. We describe (a) how both working memory-demanding processes and less-demanding associative processes impact insight and (b) how individual, situational, and task-specific factors interact to influence whether greater working memory is a help or a hindrance. We propose that insight will be supported if the level of executive control used matches the level of control optimal for different phases of insight problem solving. We use this framework to explain why Chuderski and Jastrzębski’s (2017) findings may have differed from DeCaro, Van Stockum, and Wieth (2016), and offer direction for a more unified account of insight problem solving. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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