What Memory Quirks, Hiccups and Odd Phenomena Tell Us
Co-chairs: Bennett L. Schwartz, Florida International University, USA; Zehra F. Peynircioglu, American University, USA; Anne M. Cleary, Colorado State University, USA
In this symposium, we consider some of the peculiar characteristics that challenge our understanding and force us to reconsider what we know about the nature of human memory. Just as perceptual illusions inform us further about perceptual processes, so too do such memory quirks push the existing boundaries and enrich our thinking about memory processes. Theory in memory research has developed to explain phenomena such as encoding and retrieval, recognition and recall, and semantic memory and episodic memory. However, many important memory phenomena do not fit into these neat categories. In particular, in this symposium, we consider the relation of metacognitive experience and memory. Metacognitive experience occurs regardless of its accuracy and thus is often subject to illusion, which, in turn, may have consequences for self-regulated learning. Speakers consider phenomena such as the déjà vu phenomenon, tip-of-the-tongues states, and the revelation effect, reporting new findings that address these current mysteries.
Role of “Revelation” in the Revelation Effect
Zehra F. Peynircioglu, American University, USA
with Sara Wong, American University, USA
Items that need to be discovered before a recognition decision can be made are more likely to be thought to have been studied compared to those that are simply given. We show that this revelation effect is heavily influenced by the subjective feeling of revelation, akin to an “aha!” experience. In Experiment 1, test items presented as anagrams led to a revelation effect only when they were solved by the participant and not when a solution key needed to be used. In Experiment 2, no solution key was provided, and participants explicitly indicated whether or not they had experienced a feeling of insight when they solved the anagram. A revelation effect occurred only for those words that had been accompanied by an introspective sense of “revelation” and not otherwise, pointing to a crucial role of the surprise or insight that accompanies the discovery of an item in creating this illusion.
What the Font Size Illusion for Nonwords tells us about Metamemory
Monika Undorf, University of Mannheim, Germany
People expect to remember items printed in larger fonts better than items printed in smaller fonts, although actual memorability is similar for smaller and larger items. Incidental observations raise the possibility that this font size illusion may not occur at all with nonwords. If so, this might provide insights into the basis of the font size illusionand point to limitations of current theorizing about metamemory. Three experiments obtained judgments of learning (JOLs) for words (e.g., metal), pseudowords (e.g., unsle), and nonwords (e.g., abrtz) presented in four different font sizes between 9 point and 294 point. Results revealed illusory effects of font size on JOLs for words and pseudowords in all experiments and conditions. Provided that participants attempted to master nonwords, font size also affected JOLs for nonwords. This demonstrates the robustness of the font size illusion and informs our knowledge about the basis of metamemory.
Why You Need Quirks to Show How It Works
Steven M. Smith, Texas A&M University, USA
A theory of human memory that cannot account for déjà vu, false memories, or tip-of-the-tongue states must be considered incomplete. Memory quirks may seem odd and surprising when they occur, but they can be universal phenomena, experienced across cultures. Because quirks constitute a sort of breakdown of an otherwise functional memory system, understanding them can be especially informative in regards to the processes at work. The study of memory quirks typically begins with naturalistic observation of a phenomenon, and proceeds when experimental analogues are found that can reliably produce the phenomenon in controlled laboratory.
Evaluating the Extent to which Memories for Déjà vu Experiences Change over Time.
Akira O'Connor, University of Saint Andrews, United Kingdom
with Courtney Aitken, University of Saint Andrews, United Kingdom
Déjà vu experiences, like many memory quirks, are infrequent and short-lived, making them hard to observe in the laboratory. Retrospective questioning has yielded insight into their typical characteristics, though the bias introduced by the temporal lag between experience and evaluation remains poorly understood. In an online study, participants evaluated the characteristics of their typical déjà vu experience. They then prospectively reported and evaluated subsequent déjà vu experiences. Those who submitted prospective reports, were retrospectively questioned on these specific experiences after intervals of two and six weeks. This approach allowed us to examine how retrospective reports of particular déjà vu experiences are reconstructed over time. Our findings indicate a close correspondence between prospective and retrospective evaluations, suggesting that bias introduced by temporal lags is largely unsystematic. Drawing on these and related findings, we suggest ways of further improving the accuracy of retrospective reports of déjà vu and other memory quirks.
The Déjà vu Phenomenon: A Window into the Role of Familiarity in Cognitive Bias
Anne M. Cleary, Colorado State University, USA,
with Andrew M. Huebert, Colorado State University, USA;
and Katherine L. McNeely-White, Colorado State University, USA
Recent research showed an association between reports of déjà vu—the feeling of having experienced a situation before despite knowing otherwise—and illusory feelings of prediction. However, not all déjà vu reports are accompanied by feelings of prediction. A distinguishing feature of déjà vu reports that are accompanied by feelings of prediction is that these trials tend to have higher levels of reported perceived familiarity intensity. This pattern suggests that familiarity intensity may be a driver of illusions of prediction. Indeed, several experiments from our lab suggest that as the familiarity level of a dynamic test stimulus is experimentally increased, illusory feelings of predication are also increased. This pattern of increased illusory prediction occurred when the spatial configuration within a virtual tour had been repeatedly familiarized earlier in the experiment. It was also shown when the rhythm or pitch sequence within a piece of music had been repeatedly familiarized.
Divided Attention Can Enhance Memory: When Distraction Improves Memory Encoding
Neill W. Mulligan, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, USA
Distraction during encoding has long been known to impair later memory performance, results critical to cornerstone theories from the earliest days of the “cognitive revolution” as well as to current theories of memory and attention. However, recent findings have uncovered conditions under which distraction not only fails to harm memory encoding but actually enhances it relative to full attention encoding. This talk will review recent research on the attentional boost effect which demonstrates how a distractor task can, under certain conditions, enhance later performance on implicit tests of memory and on recognition memory. Analogous results have been found in research on task-irrelevant-perceptual-learning (TIPL), implicit recognition, perceptual categorization, and retrieval-induced-forgetting. These experiments extend the results to visual working memory, some forms of visual long-term memory, and recall with verbal materials. Neuroimaging, neuropsychological, and TMS studies provide hints about the neural underpinnings of these phenomena.
Seeking Explicit Cognitive Processes in Animals
Co-Chairs: Barbara A. Church, J. David Smith, Georgia State University
Researchers have tended to interpret animals’ behavior unitarily, collapsing their processes/understandings to a single level or learning system. Yet theories distinguishing different types of learning and memory have permeated and transformed human cognitive science. Less is known about how these differentiations map to cross-species research. The symposium considers how researchers can draw meaningful distinctions among the learning, memory, monitoring, and conceptual systems that animals bring to different tasks (e.g., implicit-explicit; procedural-declarative; unconscious-aware, stimulus-bound or abstract-symbolic). Topics include: animal metacognition’s relation to explicit cognition, species continuities in hippocampal memory, animals’ implicit/explicit categorization, detecting explicit cognition in animals, the role of symbolic representation in fostering explicit cognition, and paradigms of conscious cognition in humans/nonhumans. We consider the nature of dissociative paradigms, the representational and awareness character of explicit cognition, and its evolution. The symposium will synergize cognitive and comparative psychology and build bridges to neuroscience.
Animal Metacognition: The Dolphin’s Tale
J. David Smith, Georgia State University, USA
A bottlenosed dolphin inaugurated the literature on animal metacognition. His “metacognitive” performance spurred a 20-year associative-metacognitive debate, considering whether associative-learning processes or explicit-decisional processes underlay his performance. Across many empirical contributions, associative explanations fell away, leaving behind the consensus that some species share some aspects of humans’ metacognitive monitoring. This presentation will review the arduous progress of this area. But crucial questions remain. How can we positively identify explicit (meta)cognition in animals who cannot declare their mental states? What are the primary markers of explicit animal cognition, so that the explicit interpretation isn’t just the residue remaining when all associative descriptions have faltered? I consider some answers to these questions. And I seek a sharper understanding of the construct of associative learning, so that behavioral scientists can more clearly differentiate and contrast animals’ performances at implicit (associative, procedural) and explicit (controlled, decisional) levels.
Remembering What’s Important: Evolution of Memory Prioritization
Joseph R. Manns, Emory University, USA
Across mammals, the hippocampus shows a degree of homology that suggests it conveyed a generalizable contribution to fitness throughout the diversification of the taxon. However, the type of everyday declarative memory supported by the hippocampus is fallible and typified more by forgetting than remembering. Good memory, in an evolutionary sense, is thus better characterized by prioritization of useful information rather than by total storage capacity. Metamemory processes, such as post-retrieval monitoring, are one important mechanism for shuffling actionable information to the top. Another important route to good memory is prioritization of encoding or consolidation according to the salience of the stimuli. I will accordingly discuss the role of the amygdala, another relatively conserved brain structure, in modulating hippocampal activity to prioritize declarative memory based on affective salience in both rats and humans.
The Evolutionary Emergence of Explicit Categorization
Barbara A. Church, Georgia State University, USA
Cognitive neuroscientists distinguish different learning systems that influence categorization and perceptual discrimination to map how different brain systems produce distinguishable types of learning and cognitive processing. One theoretical distinction from cognitive neuroscience that has been particularly fruitful for aiding our understanding of perceptual category learning contrasts implicit-procedural category learning (stimulus-response associations cemented by reinforcement) and explicit-declarative category learning (category rules discovered through hypothesis testing). These systems are often dissociated using category-learning tasks with either a multidimensional, information-integration (II) solution or a unidimensional, rule-based (RB) solution. This presentation will review the studies that map the phylogeny of category-learning systems using these tasks, focusing on species similarities and differences and on what these may tell us about the component processes and representations that support explicit category learning. I will also discuss initial data exploring category learning in primates when the implicit-procedural system is compromised.
Studies of Metacognition and Dissociations in Memory in Monkeys Suggest Explicit Cognition
Robert R. Hampton, Emory University, USA
Rhesus monkeys sometimes “know when they know,” avoiding memory tests for which they do not remember the answer. They stop seeking information when they have enough to reach a valid decision. They actively hold information in working memory when they have the expectation of an upcoming memory test. Both behavioral and neural manipulations dissociate memory processes in monkeys. The apparently distinct memory systems revealed by these dissociations appear to parallel systems observed in humans that cleave along an implicit-explicit boundary. I will share techniques that may detect explicit cognition in non-verbal species and that are well anchored to overt behavior. We may already have many of the tools we need to identify explicit cognition in monkeys and other nonhuman animals, and we may be finding such processes.
Symbolic Representation Enhances Grey Parrot (Psittacus erithacus) Abstract Thought
Irene M. Pepperberg, Harvard University, USA
Premack (1983) argued that nonhumans who understand symbolic representation (in which a symbol stands for an object, an attribute, an action, etc.) have an enhanced ability to perform tasks that require abstract thinking, such as analogical reasoning. Premack focused on intraspecies studies using chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes), but his claims may also be true for cross-species comparisons. For example, a Grey parrot (Psittacus erithacus) that had been trained on symbolic representation could, like young children and similarly-trained apes, understand exact rather than approximate numerical meanings; only the latter are understood by nonhumans without symbolic representation. Just like ~4-year-old children, he could also infer cardinality from ordinality, something apes however have not yet demonstrated (Pepperberg & Carey, 2012). Another similarly-trained parrot demonstrated Piagetian probabilistic reasoning at a level comparable to ~6-year-old children and at a level beyond that of untrained apes (Clements et al., 2017). I briefly discuss these experiments.
Comparing Paradigms of Conscious Cognition in Humans and Non-human Primates
Bennett L. Schwartz, Florida International University, USA
Reverse engineering human cognitive evolution is a dicey proposition. Many of the most critical aspects of contemporary human cognitive functionality (e.g., reading, fixing a car) evolved historically in a time frame for which biological natural selection cannot account. Because of this, the best way to understand the factors that may have led to human cognition evolution is to look at cognitive processes in non-human primates. When we find analogs of conscious cognition (e.g., episodic memory, metacognition) in apes or monkeys, this may inform us about the evolution of our cognition, as well as how that species engages with the world. I consider one paradigm that has been used to address the evolution of cognition in humans – survival processing – and discuss how it maps to non-human primates. Then I consider the ways in which episodic memory and metacognition have been addressed in non-human primates and apply it to human cognition.
Beyond a Single Participant: Interactive Social Cognition in Dyads and Groups
Chair: Jelena Ristic, McGill University, Canada
So far, the study of social cognition has mainly focused on assessing performance in single participants, whose social cognitive processes and behaviors were elicited by carefully controlled computerized displays. This approach is rapidly changing, with researchers beginning to study how cognitions and actions arise in the presence of other humans. How can the study of social cognition be extended from passive single participants to interactive real-life settings? How does social cognition work in group and multi-agent contexts? What are the challenges and experimental methods of this new interactive approach? Four speakers will present their cutting-edge work showcasing how cognitions, social functions, and actions are modulated by interactions within dyads and groups. Their approaches and data highlight an exciting future for the emerging field of interactive social cognition.
How to Measure When Two Heads are Better than One
James Enns, University of British Columbia, Canada
Failure to distinguish between statistical effects and genuine social interaction may lead to unwarranted conclusions about collaborative cognition. I will introduce these issues in the application of the race model inequality (Miller et al., 1982; 2007) to a collaborative visual search task. A series of studies show that collaborative benefits can be predicted by the strength of friendship, similarity of verbal communication, availability of visual body language, and by EEG signals measuring local phase synchronization and inter-brain phase synchronization in members of a search team.
“We Duet Together”: Investigating Agency During Interpersonal Coordination Using E-music Boxes
Justin Christensen, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
with Janeen Loehr, University of Saskatchewan, Canada
The sense of agency, that is, the feeling of control over actions and their consequences, is an important component of metacognition for action. Most research on the sense of agency has focused on individuals performing actions alone. However, the sense of agency may be substantially different when people coordinate their actions together with other people. Each person may experience self-agency (a feeling of self-control), other-agency (a feeling of control over others’ actions), and/or joint agency (a feeling of shared control). Ensemble music performance is a quintessential example of close interpersonal coordination that is likely to elicit these experiences of agency. In our research, novices use E-music boxes (electronic versions of mechanical music boxes) to perform musical duets and then rate their experiences of agency. Our findings elucidate the relationship between individual and joint agency and the conditions that strengthen the experience of joint agency.
The Dual Function of Visual Attention in Social Hierarchies: A Perfect Tool Subserving Interactive Social Cognition
Matthias Gobel, Brunel University London, United Kingdom
The functional role of visual attention within social hierarchies (i.e., when looking at or looking with others of higher or lower rank) remains a topic of scientific debate. Using an interdisciplinary experimental approach integrating social psychological, cognitive, and neuroscientific methodology, I will first discuss under what real-world conditions people change the locus of their attention when looking at higher and lower ranked others, and I will then discuss to what end people change the locus of their attention when looking with them. Results consistently suggest that shifting visual attention in social hierarchies – and presumably across social contexts – fulfills a dual function: It gathers information from others, and it signals information back to them. Such social attention might be a key mechanism for the facilitation of interpersonal communication and behavioural coordination, making looking at and looking with higher ranked individuals a perfect social tool subserving interactive social cognition.
The Language of the Eyes: How Looking Behavior Indexes Group Dynamics and Predicts Individual Socio-Cognitive Functions
Francesca Capozzi, McGill University, Canada
with Jelena Ristic, McGill University, Canada
Group interactions play an important role in shaping individual social and cognitive styles. However, the link between group dynamics and individual function remains rarely studied in cognitive research. Here, we show how patterns of looking behavior can be captured within live interacting groups to reliably index group social processes, like leadership and cooperation, and predict subsequent socio-cognitive behaviors in group members. Specifically, we found that the amount of time a group member was looked at during a group interaction indexed leadership behaviors and predicted the magnitude of gaze following they elicited in other group members during a subsequent computerized gaze-following task. As such, these data provide one of the first studies showing how group social dynamics translates to affect individual socio-cognitive function and behavior.
Re-organizing our Understanding of Semantic and Episodic Memory
Co-Chairs: Louis Renoult, University of East Anglia, UK; Signy Sheldon, McGill University, Canada
Traditional models of memory describe semantic and episodic memory as independent entities within long-term memory, which has led to studying them as separate memory systems. Contemporary research has begun to document several scenarios in which semantic and episodic memory necessarily interact, ranging from learning new information, retrieving past memories and making effective decisions. These findings raise new questions about how long-term memory is organised and whether semantic and episodic memory are truly independent systems. In the current symposium, we will present developments on the scenarios under which semantic and episodic memory interact to reveal new insights into the underlying cognitive and neural architecture of long-term memory. The integration of these findings provides new theoretical models of the organisation of memory to direct future research.
Symposium Introduction: The Distinction Between Semantic and Episodic Memory
Louis Renoult, University of East Anglia, United Kingdom
The distinction between semantic and episodic memory was proposed by Endel Tulving in 1972. Crucially, in this initial chapter and in subsequent writings, it is specified that the two systems interact and are “partially overlapping”. In this introduction to the symposium, I will briefly review how the semantic-episodic dichotomy has evolved over the years in Tulving`s writings, as well more recent research on the cognitive and neural correlates of semantic and episodic memory. Episodic and semantic retrieval seemingly involve engagement of a common core cortical network and, consistent with Tulving’s original ideas, are clearly interacting and overlapping during normal declarative memory functions.
An Integrated View of Episodic and Semantic Memory Processing During Complex Retrieval Tasks
Signy Sheldon, McGill University, Canada
Although retrieving complex memories, whether of personal experiences or general concepts, often relies on the interactivity between episodic and semantic memory systems, laboratory research tends to study these systems as independent. In this talk, I will present experimental evidence that show the situations under which episodic and semantic memory processes interact and influence one another. First, I will present neuropsychological and neuroimaging data that indicate that traditional semantic memory tasks, like category fluency and problem solving, relies upon hippocampally-mediated episodic memory processes. Next, I will report the findings from a behavioral experiment conducted in aging populations that highlights how accessing different types of semantic memory alters the retrieval of episodic autobiographical memories. Together, these results argue against a distinction between episodic and semantic memory and argues for viewing the memory as a set of interactive component processes.
Representation of Complex Events and the Interplay Between Episodic and Semantic Memory
Charan Ranganath, University of California, Davis, USA
In the lab, episodic memory is studied by assessing recognition or recall of briefly presented items, but real world events have temporal and semantic structure that is not captured by these paradigms. I will describe a new program of research aimed at understanding how we form memories for events, and how these memories may be transformed over time. Our research suggests that there may be a hierarchical organization of episodic memory, such that the hippocampus encodes episode-unique sequences of experiences within an event, whereas posterior medial cortical areas encode event schemas that generalize across similar events, and the ventromedial prefrontal cortex may encode schematic information that characterizes situations in which particular kinds of events may occur. Moreover, episodic memory representations may be reorganized through sleep-dependent memory consolidation, such that related events that occurred at different times can become linked. These findings support a neuro-computational framework that conceptualizes the episodic-semantic in terms of cortico-hippocampal interactions.
The Cognitive and Neural Bases of Personal Semantic Memory: Insights from Individuals with Lesions to the Core Autobiographical Memory Neural Network
Matthew D. Grilli, University of Arizona, USA
Much of one’s autobiographical memory is composed of personal semantic memory, which is knowledge about the self and one’s life story. The degree to which personal semantic memory relies on cognitive and neural mechanisms that overlap with episodic memory or general semantics remains unclear, although this has implications for memory theory and clinical psychology. In this talk, I will draw on neuropsychological findings from my laboratory to suggest that personal semantics share features with both episodic memory and general semantics. Specifically, I will present data indicating that individuals with lesions to the extended episodic memory system tend to retrieve personal knowledge that is stripped of spatiotemporal references. I will also present evidence showing that similar to general semantics, personal semantic memory is organized according to the specificity of knowledge to a unique entity, with this common principle supported in part, but perhaps not exclusively, by the lateral temporal lobes.
Constructing and Deconstructing the Dynamics of Autobiographical Thought
Jessica R. Andrews-Hanna, University of Arizona, USA
Laboratory-based paradigms have made substantial headway towards delineating the component processes and neural underpinnings of episodic and semantic memory. As such, we know a great deal about the static nature of such processes, which hint at their associative properties and predictive functions, and raise key questions about their independence. In contrast, relatively little is known about the dynamics of autobiographical thought – that is, how memories and prospective thoughts arise and unfold over time, both in the lab and in daily life. In this talk, I will introduce a neurocognitive framework with which to understand the stability and flexibility of our mental lives, as well as novel paradigms and preliminary findings pertaining to the dynamics of autobiographical thought. The picture that emerges is one with important functional and clinical significance, in which semantic and episodic processes are inherently intertwined – each influencing the other.
Call for Symposia
The Call for Symposia closed on March 29, 2019.
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