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New Research on Memory From Psychological Science

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Read about the latest research on memory published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Modifying Memory: Selectively Enhancing and Updating Personal Memories for a Museum Tour by Reactivating Them

Peggy L. St. Jacques and Daniel L. Schacter

Although researchers know that memories can be modified when they are retrieved, less is known about how the properties of reactivation affect memory. Researchers sent participants on a self-guided tour of a museum with a camera that automatically took pictures of their visit. Researchers used the pictures from the visit to reactivate participants’ memories of the tour either in the order they were experienced (reactivation-match) or out of order (reactivation-mismatch). Participants in the reactivation-match condition had better memory for the experienced images and greater false recognition of images that were not experienced, which suggests that manipulating the properties of reactivation can selectively influence memories by enhancing and distorting the memory via updating.

Visual Long-Term Memory Stores High-Fidelity Representations of Observed Actions

Zhisen Jiang Urgolites and Justin N. Wood     

Although we know humans store representations of actions in their long-term memory, the precision of these representations is not well understood. Participants completed a study phase in which they viewed images from different movement categories (jump, turn, kick). Researchers then showed participants two images from the same movement category (jump, jump) or different movement categories (jump, turn) and asked them to indicate which of the images they had seen in the study phase. Participants’ memory for the actions was similarly accurate regardless of whether the images were from the same or different movement categories, which indicates that visual long-term memory can store accurate detailed representations of observed actions. 

Attention Restores Discrete Items to Visual Short-Term Memory

Alexandra M. Murray, Anna C. Nobre, Ian A. Clark, André M. Cravo, and Mark G. Stokes

Can attention help restore forgotten items to visual short-term memory? Participants were shown randomly oriented arrows placed around a fixation cross. Researchers tested each participant’s memory for the location of one of the arrows. On half the trials, participants saw a cue indicating which arrow would be tested. The cue was placed at the location of the item (valid retro-cue) or around the central cross (neutral retro-cue). Memory accuracy was significantly higher on trials with the valid retro-cue. The authors suggest that selective attention during the maintenance of a memory can turn it from one that is relatively weak into one that is more robust, which allows for access to information that would otherwise be forgotten.