August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Does memory enhancement training alter perceptual representations?
Author Affiliations
  • Juliana Rhee
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • Talia Konkle
    Center for Mind/Brain Sciences, University of Trento, Italy
  • Timothy Brady
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • George Alvarez
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 299. doi:10.1167/12.9.299
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      Juliana Rhee, Talia Konkle, Timothy Brady, George Alvarez; Does memory enhancement training alter perceptual representations?. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):299. doi: 10.1167/12.9.299.

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      © ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)

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Observers can learn statistical regularities and use them to hold more content in working memory (Brady, Konkle & Alvarez, 2009). Here we investigated whether this memory enhancement fundamentally alters the structure of perceptual representations as measured by a perceptual grouping task.

Memory-Training Task: On each trial, 8 shapes were displayed, followed by a brief delay, and then observers reported the shape that had appeared at a cued location. Shapes were paired such that 80% of the time certain shapes co-occurred (e.g., ‘shape A’-‘shape B’, ‘shape C’-‘shape D’, etc.). After completing 8 blocks of 60 trials, observers nearly doubled the number of shapes they could remember (to 6.5 shapes).

Perceptual-Grouping Task: Observers then performed three blocks of a color repetition detection task that is sensitive to perceptual grouping (Vickery & Jiang, 2009). On each trial, a row of alternating red and green shapes was presented, with one color-repeat along the row. Observers were instructed to detect the color repetition as quickly as possible and then report its location; the shapes were not task relevant and observers were instructed to ignore them. If trained pairs automatically form perceptual groups, then color-repeats within a pair should be more quickly detected than color-repeats across pairs. Additionally, to measure any pair-learning effects during the grouping task, we included a new set of "untrained pairs".

In the first block, observers detected color-repeats faster when they occurred within pairs than between pairs for trained pairs (~51.2 ms difference, p=.02), but not for untrained pairs (p>.05). The within vs between difference for trained pairs was not present after the first block of test trials.

Thus, learning arbitrary shape pairs through a memory training task affects performance in a basic perceptual task, suggesting that this training may give rise to fundamental changes in perceptual representations.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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