September 2018
Volume 18, Issue 10
Open Access
Vision Sciences Society Annual Meeting Abstract  |   September 2018
Is source information automatically available in working memory?
Author Affiliations
  • Hui Chen
    Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, Zhejiang University, China
  • Richard Carlson
    Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, United States
  • Brad Wyble
    Department of Psychology, The Pennsylvania State University, United States
Journal of Vision September 2018, Vol.18, 684. doi:
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      Hui Chen, Richard Carlson, Brad Wyble; Is source information automatically available in working memory?. Journal of Vision 2018;18(10):684. doi:

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

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In everyday life it is commonplace to remember a fact without its source. For instance, we all have some experience of recognizing a person but being unable to recollect where or when we met that person. This phenomenon was termed source memory failure/source amnesia, which has been studied extensively in long-term memory (Mitchell & Johnson, 2009). Most people, though, share the intuition that they will be able to remember the source of information that they have just recently encountered. Recent experiments, however, have challenged this intuition by demonstrating frequent source errors for information that had just been attended, encoded, or/and held in working memory (WM) momently before (Chen, Carlson, & Wyble, in press at Psychological Science ; Chen, Swan, & Wyble, 2016). In our experiments, participants were asked to judge the congruency between two color representations from one single object (i.e., ink color and identity of a color word) or two distinct objects (i.e., color of a square and identity of a color word) for several repetitions, and were then unexpectedly asked to report the source of one color representation. The results consistently showed participants' inability to report the source of a color representation, even though the color had just been attended and/or encoded into WM. This counterintuitive effect has been replicated and extended in a variety of contexts. In an extension, observers were even unable to report whether a perfectly recognized animal word was presented in English or Mandarin in an immediate incidental memory test. This is the first study showing source amnesia in the context of WM with young healthy participants. These novel findings suggest a cognitive-economy view of memory function, in which source information of an attended/encoded item is only stored in WM when it is in accordance with the goals of the observer.

Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2018


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