Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition

  • Using perspective to resolve reference: The impact of cognitive load and motivation.
    Research has demonstrated a link between perspective taking and working memory. Here we used eye tracking to examine the time course with which working memory load (WML) influences perspective-taking ability in a referential communication task and how motivation to take another’s perspective modulates these effects. In Experiment 1, where there was no reward or time pressure, listeners only showed evidence of incorporating perspective knowledge during integration of the target object but did not anticipate reference to this common ground object during the pretarget-noun period. WML did not affect this perspective use. In Experiment 2, where a reward for speed and accuracy was applied, listeners used perspective cues to disambiguate the target object from the competitor object from the earliest moments of processing (i.e., during the pretarget-noun period), but only under low load. Under high load, responses were comparable with the control condition, where both objects were in common ground. Furthermore, attempts to initiate perspective-relevant responses under high load led to impaired recall on the concurrent WML task, indicating that perspective-relevant responses were drawing on limited cognitive resources. These results show that when there is ambiguity, perspective cues guide rapid referential interpretation when there is sufficient motivation and sufficient cognitive resources. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Verbalizing, visualizing, and navigating: The effect of strategies on encoding a large-scale virtual environment.
    Using novel virtual cities, we investigated the influence of verbal and visual strategies on the encoding of navigation-relevant information in a large-scale virtual environment. In 2 experiments, participants watched videos of routes through 4 virtual cities and were subsequently tested on their memory for observed landmarks and their ability to make judgments regarding the relative directions of the different landmarks along the route. In the first experiment, self-report questionnaires measuring visual and verbal cognitive styles were administered to examine correlations between cognitive styles, landmark recognition, and judgments of relative direction. Results demonstrate a tradeoff in which the verbal cognitive style is more beneficial for recognizing individual landmarks than for judging relative directions between them, whereas the visual cognitive style is more beneficial for judging relative directions than for landmark recognition. In a second experiment, we manipulated the use of verbal and visual strategies by varying task instructions given to separate groups of participants. Results confirm that a verbal strategy benefits landmark memory, whereas a visual strategy benefits judgments of relative direction. The manipulation of strategy by altering task instructions appears to trump individual differences in cognitive style. Taken together, we find that processing different details during route encoding, whether due to individual proclivities (Experiment 1) or task instructions (Experiment 2), results in benefits for different components of navigation-relevant information. These findings also highlight the value of considering multiple sources of individual differences as part of spatial cognition investigations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Attentional capture by deviant sounds: A noncontingent form of auditory distraction?
    The occurrence of an unexpected, infrequent sound in an otherwise homogeneous auditory background tends to disrupt the ongoing cognitive task. This “deviation effect” is typically explained in terms of attentional capture whereby the deviant sound draws attention away from the focal activity, regardless of the nature of this activity. Yet, there is theoretical and empirical evidence suggesting that the attention-capture mechanism underlying this form of distraction could rather be triggered in a task-contingent fashion. The present study aimed at determining whether the auditory deviation effect reflects the action of either a stimulus-driven or a task-contingent orienting mechanism. To do so, we conducted a systematic investigation whereby the impact of verbal deviants—a letter embedded in the repetition of another letter—and spatial deviants—a sound presented contralaterally to the other sounds—on verbal and spatial short-term memory (STM) was assessed. This study established that both verbal and spatial deviants can hinder both verbal and spatial order-reconstruction (Experiment 1) and missing-item tasks (Experiment 2). Such results demonstrate that the deviation effect reflects a general form of auditory distraction as interference took place both within and across domains and regardless of the processes engaged in the focal task. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • On predicting form and meaning in a second language.
    We used event-related potentials (ERP) to investigate whether Spanish−English bilinguals preactivate form and meaning of predictable words. Participants read high-cloze sentence contexts (e.g., “The student is going to the library to borrow a . . .”), followed by the predictable word (book), a word that was form-related (hook) or semantically related (page) to the predictable word, or an unrelated word (sofa). Word stimulus onset synchrony (SOA) was 500 ms (Experiment 1) or 700 ms (Experiment 2). In both experiments, all nonpredictable words elicited classic N400 effects. Form-related and unrelated words elicited similar N400 effects. Semantically related words elicited smaller N400s than unrelated words, which however, did not depend on cloze value of the predictable word. Thus, we found no N400 evidence for preactivation of form or meaning at either SOA, unlike native-speaker results (Ito, Corley et al., 2016). However, non-native speakers did show the post-N400 posterior positivity (LPC effect) for form-related words like native speakers, but only at the slower SOA. This LPC effect increased gradually with cloze value of the predictable word. We do not interpret this effect as necessarily demonstrating prediction, but rather as evincing combined effects of top-down activation (contextual meaning) and bottom-up activation (form similarity) that result in activation of unseen words that fit the context well, thereby leading to an interpretation conflict reflected in the LPC. Although there was no evidence that non-native speakers preactivate form or meaning, non-native speakers nonetheless appear to use bottom-up and top-down information to constrain incremental interpretation much like native speakers do. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Isolating component processes of posterror slowing with the psychological refractory period paradigm.
    Posterror slowing (PES) refers to an increased response time following errors. While PES has traditionally been attributed to control adjustments, recent evidence suggested that PES reflects interference. The present study investigated the hypothesis that control and interference represent 2 components of PES that differ with respect to their time course and task-specificity. To this end, we investigated PES in a dual-task paradigm in which participants had to classify colors and tones that were separated by a variable stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA). Errors in the color task caused PES both in the tone task of the same trial and the color task of the subsequent trial. However, while the former effect disappeared with an increasing SOA, the latter effect was independent of SOA and lasted for several trials. This suggests that errors simultaneously induce task-unspecific, transient PES reflecting interference and task-specific, more long-lasting PES reflecting control adjustments. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)
  • Looking inward and back: Real-time monitoring of visual working memories.
    Confidence in our memories is influenced by many factors, including beliefs about the perceptibility or memorability of certain kinds of objects and events, as well as knowledge about our skill sets, habits, and experiences. Notoriously, our knowledge and beliefs about memory can lead us astray, causing us to be overly confident in eyewitness testimony or to overestimate the frequency of recent experiences. Here, using visual working memory as a case study, we stripped away all these potentially misleading cues, requiring observers to make confidence judgments by directly assessing the quality of their memory representations. We show that individuals can monitor the status of information in working memory as it degrades over time. Our findings suggest that people have access to information reflecting the existence and quality of their working memories, and furthermore, that they can use this information to guide their behavior. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2017 APA, all rights reserved)

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