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Arielle S. Keller, Robert Sekuler; Memory and learning with rapid audiovisual sequences. Journal of Vision 2015;15(15):7. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/15.15.7.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
We examined short-term memory for sequences of visual stimuli embedded in varying multisensory contexts. In two experiments, subjects judged the structure of the visual sequences while disregarding concurrent, but task-irrelevant auditory sequences. Stimuli were eight-item sequences in which varying luminances and frequencies were presented concurrently and rapidly (at 8 Hz). Subjects judged whether the final four items in a visual sequence identically replicated the first four items. Luminances and frequencies in each sequence were either perceptually correlated (Congruent) or were unrelated to one another (Incongruent). Experiment 1 showed that, despite encouragement to ignore the auditory stream, subjects' categorization of visual sequences was strongly influenced by the accompanying auditory sequences. Moreover, this influence tracked the similarity between a stimulus's separate audio and visual sequences, demonstrating that task-irrelevant auditory sequences underwent a considerable degree of processing. Using a variant of Hebb's repetition design, Experiment 2 compared musically trained subjects and subjects who had little or no musical training on the same task as used in Experiment 1. Test sequences included some that intermittently and randomly recurred, which produced better performance than sequences that were generated anew for each trial. The auditory component of a recurring audiovisual sequence influenced musically trained subjects more than it did other subjects. This result demonstrates that stimulus-selective, task-irrelevant learning of sequences can occur even when such learning is an incidental by-product of the task being performed.
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