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Weizhen Xie, Weiwei Zhang; Effects of Familiarity on Visual Short-Term Memory for Pokémon. Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):366. doi: 10.1167/16.12.366.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
Long-Term Memory (LTM) can influence Short-Term Memory (STM) storage capacity in the verbal domain (e.g., increased verbal STM span for high-frequency words). In contrast, it is under debate whether similar effects manifest in the visual domain. That is, can we retain more representations in visual STM for stimuli that we are more familiar with? The current study addressed this question by taking advantage of participants' prior rich multimedia experience with Pokémon, without investing on laboratory training. In a Pokémon STM change detection task (Experiment 1), one group of participants remembered more familiar first-generation Pokémon characters than unfamiliar recent-generation Pokémon stimuli. No significant difference in memory quality was found when quantitative and qualitative effects of LTM were isolated using receiver operating characteristic curves. Critically, these effects were absent in another group of participants who were unfamiliar with the first generation Pokémon. Furthermore, several alternative interpretations were ruled out, including Pokémon preference, verbal encoding, and general video gaming experience. Experiment 2 examined whether this quantitative boost resulted from faster consolidation speed using limited encoding time with consolidation masking. The results suggested that STM consolidation was faster for familiar first-generation Pokémon, which consequently led to increased capacity, relative to less familiar recent-generation Pokémon. Again this effect was absent in participants who were not familiar with the first-generation Pokémon. Experiment 3 extended memory array duration to 1 second so that STM consolidation was no longer a limiting factor on overall performance. No significant effect of familiarity on STM capacity was found. Together, the present study provided strong evidence supporting facilitations of visual STM by existing visual LTM. Specifically, visual LTM speeds up visual STM consolidation, which could manifest as increased STM storage capacity when encoding time is limited. These results provide some insights into evaluating theories on relationships between STM and LTM.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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