Kevin Lewis

August 10, 2019

Forgetting Is a Feature, Not a Bug: Intentionally Forgetting Some Things Helps Us Remember Others by Freeing Up Working Memory Resources
Vencislav Popov et al.
Psychological Science, forthcoming

In the present study, we used an item-method directed-forgetting paradigm to test whether instructions to forget or remember one item affect memory for subsequently studied items. In two experiments (Ns = 138 and 33, respectively), recall was higher when a word pair was preceded during study by a to-be-forgotten word pair. This effect was cumulative: Performance increased when more preceding study items were to be forgotten. The effect decreased when memory was conditioned on instructions for items appearing farther back in the study list. Experiment 2 used a dual-task paradigm that suppressed, during encoding, verbal rehearsal or attentional refreshing. Neither task removed the effect, ruling out that rehearsal or attentional borrowing is responsible for the advantage conferred from previous to-be-forgotten items. We propose that memory formation depletes a limited resource that recovers over time and that to-be-forgotten items consume fewer resources, leaving more resources available for storing subsequent items. A computational model implementing the theory provided excellent fits to the data.

Inability to improve performance with control shows limited access to inner states
Marlou Nadine Perquin et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Any repeatedly performed action is characterized by endogenous variability, affecting both speed and accuracy - for a large part presumably caused by fluctuations in underlying brain and body states. The current research questions concerned (a) whether such states are accessible to us and (b) whether we can act upon this information to reduce variability. For example, when playing a game of darts, there is an implicit assumption that people can wait to throw until they are in the right perceptual-attentional state. If this is true, taking away the ability to self-pace the game should worsen performance. We first tested precisely this assumption asking participants to play darts in a self-paced and a fixed-paced condition. There was no benefit of self-pacing, showing that participants were unable to use such control to improve their performance and reduce their variability. Next, we replicated these findings in 2 computer-based tasks, in which participants performed a rapid action-selection and a visual detection task in 1 self-paced and 3 forced-paced conditions. Over 4 different empirical tests, we show that the self-paced condition did not lead to improved performance or reduced variability, nor to reduced temporal dependencies in the reaction time (RT) series. Overall, it seems that, if people have any access to their fluctuating performance-relevant inner states, this access is limited and not relevant for upcoming performance.

Looking up improves performance in verbal tasks
Christophe Carlei & & Dirk Kerzel
Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition, forthcoming

Earlier research suggested that gaze direction has an impact on cognitive processing. It is likely that horizontal gaze direction increases activation in specific areas of the contralateral cerebral hemisphere. Consistent with the lateralization of memory functions, we previously showed that shifting gaze to the left improves visuo-spatial short-term memory. In the current study, we investigated the effect of unilateral gaze on verbal processing. We expected better performance with gaze directed to the right because language is lateralized in the left hemisphere. Also, an advantage of gaze directed upward was expected because local processing and object recognition are facilitated in the upper visual field. Observers directed their gaze at one of the corners of the computer screen while they performed lexical decision, grammatical gender and semantic discrimination tasks. Contrary to expectations, we did not observe performance differences between gaze directed to the left or right, which is consistent with the inconsistent literature on horizontal asymmetries with verbal tasks. However, RTs were shorter when observers looked at words in the upper compared to the lower part of the screen, suggesting that looking upwards enhances verbal processing.

Does the name say it all? Investigating phoneme-personality sound symbolism in first names
David Sidhu et al.
Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, forthcoming

Sound symbolism has typically been demonstrated as an association between certain phonemes and perceptual dimensions (e.g., size or shape). For instance, the maluma-takete effect is the sound symbolic association between sonorant and voiceless stop phonemes and round and sharp visual shapes, respectively. Here we explored a novel association between phonemes and a more abstract dimension: personality. Further, although sound symbolism has often been examined using nonwords, here we studied it in the context of existing first names. In Experiments 1 and 2, we presented first names containing sonorant versus voiceless stop consonants and found that participants associated these with different personality factors from the HEXACO model of personality. In general, names with sonorant phonemes (e.g., Mona, Owen) were associated with high Emotionality, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness, whereas names with voiceless stop phonemes (e.g., Katie, Curtis) were associated with high Extraversion. In Experiment 3, we examined whether the associations of a person's name predict their personality. A sample of 1,071 individuals provided their names and completed a HEXACO personality inventory. We found no real-world evidence of the associations we observed in the lab. In Experiment 4, we used invented names and tested participants in the lab once again, finding evidence of the same associations as in Experiment 1 and 2. This suggests that phonemes, and not just existing knowledge of individuals with particular names, are key to the associations observed. Finally, in Experiment 5, we found that these effects are not mediated by likability. We discuss potential mechanisms for the observed associations.

Complexity can facilitate visual and auditory perception
Cameron Ellis & Nicholas Turk-Browne
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, forthcoming

Visual and auditory inputs vary in complexity. For example, driving in a city versus the country or listening to the radio versus not are experiences that differ in complexity. How does such complexity impact perception? One possibility is that complex stimuli demand resources that exceed attentional or working memory capacities, reducing sensitivity to perceptual changes. Alternatively, complexity may allow for richer and more distinctive representations, increasing such sensitivity. We performed five experiments to test the nature of the relationship between complexity and perceptual sensitivity during movie clip viewing. Experiment 1 revealed higher sensitivity to global changes in audio or video streams for clips with greater complexity, defined both subjectively (judgments by independent coders) and objectively (information-theoretic redundancy). Experiment 2 replicated this finding but found no evidence that it resulted from complexity drawing attention. Experiment 3 provided a boundary condition by showing that change detection was unaffected by complexity when the changes were superimposed on, rather than dispersed throughout, the clips. Experiment 4 suggested that the effect of complexity, at least when defined objectively, was present without the working memory demands of the preceding experiments. Experiment 5 suggested that complexity led to richer representations of the clips, as reflected in enhanced long-term memory. Collectively, these findings show that, despite increasing informational load, complexity can serve to ground and facilitate perceptual sensitivity.

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