September 2017
Volume 17, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   August 2017
Learning induced illusions: Statistical regularities create false memories
Author Affiliations
  • Yu Luo
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
  • Jiaying Zhao
    Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia
    Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
Journal of Vision August 2017, Vol.17, 503. doi:
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      Yu Luo, Jiaying Zhao; Learning induced illusions: Statistical regularities create false memories. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):503. doi:

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

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Although the visual system readily extracts regularities in terms of object co-occurrences over space and time, does learning such statistical relationships always result in the veridical representations of individual objects? Here we investigate an interesting consequence of statistical learning: how does the knowledge of statistical regularities alter the representations of individual objects which no longer co-occur with each other? During the exposure phase, observers viewed a continuous sequence of objects while performing a cover task to ensure incidental encoding of the regularities. Unbeknownst to the observers, the objects appeared either in pairs (e.g., A always appeared before B) in the structured condition, or in a random order in the random condition. In a subsequent recognition phase, a new continuous sequence of objects was presented, and observers judged whether a specific object was present in the sequence. Importantly, the sequence now only contained one member of the original pair (e.g., only A was presented and B was missing), and observers judged whether A or B was present in the sequence. We found that observers in the structured condition showed a reliably higher false alarm rate for the missing object (e.g., B) than in the random condition. At the same time, the hit rate for the presented object (e.g., A) in the structured condition was also higher than in the random condition. The results demonstrate that statistical learning not only sharpens the detection of the object within the regularities, but also induces a false memory of the missing object. This finding reveals a novel consequence of statistical learning: learning that two objects co-occur can create the illusion of seeing one object, even though only its partner is present.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017


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