August 2012
Volume 12, Issue 9
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2012
Implicit processing of labels facilitates the formation of compressed working memory representations
Author Affiliations
  • Bria L. Long
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
  • George A. Alvarez
    Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Journal of Vision August 2012, Vol.12, 855. doi:
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      Bria L. Long, George A. Alvarez; Implicit processing of labels facilitates the formation of compressed working memory representations. Journal of Vision 2012;12(9):855.

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

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We can only hold a limited amount of information in visual working memory. However, when there are strong regularities in the visual input, information can be encoded in a more compressed fashion and better remembered (Brady, Konkle, & Alvarez, 2009). In the present investigation, we ask how giving names to these regularities could increase this advantage. Labels help young infants individuate objects (Xu, 2002), and while previous research has focused on in what context language may affect visual representations, little work elucidates the mechanisms by which labels affect how we encode and remember novel information. In this experiment, observers were presented with four color pair objects for 2 seconds, and then were probed after a 1 second delay on a single color from the display. Covariance was introduced so that some color pairs occurred more often than others (80% frequency). Observers in the 'label' group saw labels (e.g., wug) above each color pair during the first 7 out of 10 blocks (labels co-occurred 100% of the time), and observers in the control group received no labels at all. Initially, both groups of observers remembered an equal number of items, but observers who received labels above the color pairs remembered significantly more items from the display during blocks 2, 3, and 4 (2-tailed t-tests, all p <.001). For the rest of the experiment, observers in both groups remembered an equal number of items from the display (all p>.05). Thus, observers who received labels learned faster than those who did not receive labels. After completing the experiment, all but one participant in the label condition claimed to not have used them. These findings suggest that labels can implicitly facilitate the process of learning regularities and compressing redundant information to form more efficient memory representations.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2012


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