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Inder Singh, Aude Oliva, Marc Howard; Evidence for sequential access in visual long-term memory. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):93. doi: https://doi.org/10.1167/17.10.93.
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One of the most well-known results in recognition memory tasks is that the response time increases and accuracy reduces with an increase in the lag of the item and the probe. These effects are usually explained by changes in memory strength with lag. Models of memory that include a temporal dimension allow for a mechanism of sequential access. We used a continuous recognition paradigm with highly memorable pictures to mitigate changes in accuracy and enable a detailed examination of the effect of recency on retrieval dynamics across three experiments. The recency at which the pictures were repeated ranged over more than two orders of magnitude from immediate repetitions after a few seconds to tens of minutes. Analysis of the RT distributions showed that the time at which memories became accessible changed with the recency of the probe item. Despite changes in accuracy across the three experiments, we see a consistent slope of the first decile of the RT distributions with logarithm of the intervening lag. The linear trend in RT on a log scale suggests an underlying compressed temporal dimension. Analyses of RT distributions showed that the time to initiate memory access to varies with log(lag). Additional analyses revealed that this effect was not attributable to an effect of immediate repetitions nor to increased processing fluency of the probe. These results suggest that visual memories can be accessed by sequentially scanning along a compressed temporal representation of the past. The form of the compression is closely analogous to the compression associated with cortical magnification in vision.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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