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Keisuke Fukuda, Edward K. Vogel; Visual short term memory serves as a gateway to long term memory. Journal of Vision 2010;10(7):730. doi: 10.1167/10.7.730.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
The classic “modal model” of memory argues that short term memory (STM) serves as the primary gateway for the formation of long term memory (LTM) representations (Atkinson & Shiffrin, 1968). Over the years, though, this model has been disregarded by many because of various incompatible results. For example, one common interpretation of this model is that STM serves as an “incubator” that strengthens representations through repeated rehearsal so that they can be successfully transferred to LTM. However, several researchers have found that longer periods of retention and rehearsal in STM does not lead to better LTM representations (e.g. Craik ” Watkins, 1973). In this study, we took a different approach to test this model. Rather than conceptualizing STM as an incubator, we instead tested whether it serves as the “gate” that filters what information from the environment will ultimately be encoded into LTM. It is well known that individuals substantially and reliably vary in their STM capacity. Here we tested whether individuals with a high STM capacity, and thus a “larger gate”, were better able to successfully store and retrieve information from LTM than their low capacity counterparts. To do this, we tested LTM recognition performance for novel and repeated arrays of simple objects that were originally presented as part of a STM change detection task. Across several experiments, we found that an individual's STM capacity strongly predicted his or her success on both incidental and intentional LTM recognition tasks (r's = .47∼.78). These results support the proposal that the effective size of the individual's STM gate determines how much information from a display will be successfully stored in LTM.
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