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Nurit Gronau, Anna Izoutcheev, Inbal Ravreby, Elia Barkai; When you know it was there - you remember how it looked: effects of semantic context on memory for 'gist' and for visual details. . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):367. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/16.12.367.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
How vivid is our memory following a very brief glance? Visual information tends to fade over time, such that only salient objects and events within a scene are retained in long-term memory. Schematic knowledge may aid in the encoding and retrieval of specific items, yet there is an unresolved dispute concerning the nature of this effect – are contextually consistent, or inconsistent stimuli mostly enhanced and remembered? Furthermore, relatively little is known about the contribution of associative information to recognition of the precise visual appearance of objects. Since schematic knowledge is typically thought to be abstracted from instances or episodic detail, information about perceptual details may be orthogonal and irrelevant to the schema. Here we investigated the effects of contextual consistency factors on memory for categorical (i.e., item type) as well as for visual detail (token) information of merely glimpsed objects. Participants viewed pairs of contextually related and unrelated stimuli. They then performed a forced-choice memory recognition task that tested for both category and visual detail knowledge. Results showed that categorical memory (e.g., recognizing an old pair of scissors) was overall enhanced for stimuli appearing within contextually consistent, relative to contextually inconsistent pairs. Interestingly, this effect was largely explained by the specific visual appearance of the items (e.g., recognizing the red pair of scissors) within the contextually consistent pairs. We propose that that during a brief glimpse, contextual associations play an important role in reducing stimulus competition and in facilitating rapid encoding of an item's 'gist' as well as its sensory details. We will discuss our findings with respect U-function models of memory, according to which both highly novel (schema-inconsistent) and highly expected (schema-consistent) information benefit from increased memory representation.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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