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Sol Sun, Celia Fidalgo, Morgan Barense, Andy Lee, Jonathan Cant, Susanne Ferber; Erasing and blurring memories: The differential impact of visual interference on separate aspects of forgetting. Journal of Vision 2017;17(10):1112. doi: 10.1167/17.10.1112.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Visual interference is often conceptualized along a single continuum. Specifically, the widely held similarity assumption of interference states that as the similarity between interfering information and memory contents increases, so too does the degree of memory impairment. However, forgetting can manifest in different ways. For instance, studied content might be erased in an all-or-nothing manner. Alternatively, information may be retained but the precision of these representations might be degraded or blurred. Here, we asked whether the similarity of interfering information to memory contents might differentially impact these two aspects of forgetting (i.e., erasing vs. blurring). Observers studied colored images of real-world objects, each followed by a stream of interfering objects. Across 3 experiments, we manipulated the similarity between the studied object and the interfering objects in continuous, circular hue space. After interference, memory for object color was tested continuously on a color wheel, which in combination with mixture modeling, allowed for estimation of the separate contributions of erasing and blurring owing to forgetting. In contrast to the similarity assumption, across all 3 experiments we show that highly dissimilar interfering items were most likely to erase the contents of memory. However, highly similar and variable interfering items tended to blur or decrease the precision of representations, even though the studied information was still retained. These results reveal that the nature of visual similarity of interfering information can differentially alter the way in which items are forgotten from memory.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2017
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