Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Memories may skew visual perception

Date:
July 22, 2011
Source:
Vanderbilt University
Summary:
Psychologists have found that our visual perception can be contaminated by memories of what we have recently seen, impairing our ability to properly understand and act on what we are currently seeing.

Taking a trip down memory lane while you are driving could land you in a roadside ditch, new research indicates.
Credit: yellowj / Fotolia

Taking a trip down memory lane while you are driving could land you in a roadside ditch, new research indicates. Vanderbilt University psychologists have found that our visual perception can be contaminated by memories of what we have recently seen, impairing our ability to properly understand and act on what we are currently seeing.

Related Articles


"This study shows that holding the memory of a visual event in our mind for a short period of time can 'contaminate' visual perception during the time that we're remembering," Randolph Blake, study co-author and Centennial Professor of Psychology, said.

"Our study represents the first conclusive evidence for such contamination, and the results strongly suggest that remembering and perceiving engage at least some of the same brain areas."

The study, led by research associate Min-Suk Kang, was recently published in the journal Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

"There are numerous instances where we engage in visually guided activities, such as driving, while rehashing visual events in our mind's eye. Common sense tells us that this mental replay is harmless in that it does not interfere with our ability to register and react to objects within our visual field," Kang and his co-authors wrote. "Evidently, however, that is not always true when the contents of our working memories overlap with the contents of our perceptual world."

Illusion offers clues

In this study, the researchers used a visual illusion called motion repulsion to learn whether information held in working memory affects perception. This illusion is produced when two sets of moving dots are superimposed, with dots in one set moving in a different direction from those in the other set. Under these conditions, people tend to misperceive the actual directions of motion, and perceive a larger difference between the two sets of motions than actually exists.

Ordinarily this illusion is produced by having people view both sets of motion at the same time. Kang and colleagues set out to determine if the illusion would occur when one set of motions, rather than being physically present, was held in working memory.

In the experiment, participants were shown a random pattern of dots and were asked to remember the direction in which the dots were moving. They were then were shown a second pattern of moving dots. They were asked to report on the direction of second dots' movement.

The research subjects' reports of the second dots' movement was exaggerated and influenced by what they had previously seen. If they were first shown dots moving in one direction and later shown dots moving in a slightly counterclockwise direction relative to the first presented dots, they reported the counterclockwise movement to be more dramatic than it had actually been.

"We find that observers misperceive the actual direction of motion of a single motion stimulus if, while viewing that stimulus, they are holding a different motion direction in visual working memory," the authors wrote.

The results provide further support for previous findings by Vanderbilt researchers Frank Tong and Stephanie Harrison that the contents of working memory may be represented in early visual areas in the brain, including the primary visual cortex, that were previously thought to play no role in higher cognitive functions such as memory.

"Our findings provide compelling evidence that visual working memory representations directly interact with the same neural mechanisms involved in processing basic sensory events," Kang and his colleagues wrote.

Kang and Blake's co-authors were research associate Sang Wook Hong and Assistant Professor of Psychology Geoffrey Woodman. Funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the World Class University Initiative of the National Research Foundation of Korea and the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology supported the research.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Vanderbilt University. The original article was written by Melanie Moran. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Min-Suk Kang, Sang Wook Hong, Randolph Blake, Geoffrey F. Woodman. Visual working memory contaminates perception. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 2011; DOI: 10.3758/s13423-011-0126-5

Cite This Page:

Vanderbilt University. "Memories may skew visual perception." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 July 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110720091542.htm>.
Vanderbilt University. (2011, July 22). Memories may skew visual perception. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 30, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110720091542.htm
Vanderbilt University. "Memories may skew visual perception." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/07/110720091542.htm (accessed October 30, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

Techy Tots Are Forefront of London's Baby Show

AP (Oct. 28, 2014) Moms and Dads get a more hands-on approach to parenting with tech-centric products for raising their little ones. (Oct. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Cocoa Could Be As Good For Memory As It Is For A Sweet Tooth

Newsy (Oct. 27, 2014) Researchers have come up with another reason why dark chocolate is good for your health. A substance in the treat can reportedly help with memory. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

Five-Year-Olds Learn Coding as Britain Eyes Digital Future

AFP (Oct. 27, 2014) Coding has become compulsory for children as young as five in schools across the UK. Making it the first major world economy to overhaul its IT teaching and put programming at its core. Duration: 02:19 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

Academic Scandal Shocks UNC

AP (Oct. 23, 2014) A scandal involving bogus classes and inflated grades at the University of North Carolina was bigger than previously reported, a new investigation found. (Oct. 23) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

    Environment News

    Technology News



    Save/Print:
    Share:

    Free Subscriptions


    Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

    Get Social & Mobile


    Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

    Have Feedback?


    Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
    Mobile: iPhone Android Web
    Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
    Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
    Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins