The loss of short-term visual representations over time: decay or temporal distinctiveness?
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AbstractThere has been much recent interest in the loss of visual short-term memories over the passage of time. According to decay theory, visual representations are gradually forgotten as time passes, reflecting a slow and steady distortion of the memory trace. However, this is controversial and decay effects can be explained in other ways. The present experiment aimed to reexamine the maintenance and loss of visual information over the short term. Decay and temporal distinctiveness models were tested using a delayed discrimination task, in which participants compared complex and novel objects over unfilled retention intervals of variable length. Experiment 1 found no significant change in the accuracy of visual memory from 2 to 6 s, but the gap separating trials reliably influenced task performance. Experiment 2 found evidence for information loss at a 10-s retention interval, but temporally separating trials restored the fidelity of visual memory, possibly because temporally isolated representations are distinct from older memory traces. In conclusion, visual representations lose accuracy at some point after 6 s, but only within temporally crowded contexts. These findings highlight the importance of temporal distinctiveness within visual short-term memory.
CitationThe loss of short-term visual representations over time: decay or temporal distinctiveness? 2014, 40 (6):2281-8 J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform
PublisherAmerican Psychological Association
JournalJournal of experimental psychology. Human perception and performance
DescriptionMercer, T. (2014). The loss of short-term visual representations over time: Decay or temporal distinctiveness? Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 40, 2281-2288. doi:10.1037/a0038141
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