Poster E112, Monday, March 27, 2:30 – 4:30 pm, Pacific Concourse
A Colorful Advantage in Iconic Memory
Radhika Gosavi1, Edward Hubbard1; 1University of Wisconsin-Madison
Synesthesia is a condition in which stimulation of one sensory modality evokes experiences in a second, unstimulated modality (Simner & Hubbard, 2013). In grapheme-color synesthesia, which is experienced by 1-2% of adults, synesthetes reliably, automatically experience specific colors when viewing black-and-white graphemes. Previous case-studies have identified synesthetes with spectacular memory (Luria, 1968; Smilek et al., 2001) and group studies have found advantages for synesthetes compared to nonsynesthetes in long-term memory (Rothen et al., 2012) but have not addressed whether these advantages begin in earlier memory stages. We investigated the effect of grapheme-color synesthesia on the capacity and duration of iconic memory by testing 20 synesthetes and 20 nonsynesthetes on the Partial Report Paradigm (Sperling, 1963). We presented a letter array followed, after a variable delay, by a tone that cued participants to recall the appropriate row of the array. A repeated measures ANOVA revealed significant effects of delay (p<0.001) and group (p=0.007), but no delay*group interaction (p=0.399). Accuracy was significantly higher for the synesthetes across all delays. Furthermore, the synesthetes’ accuracy after a 500ms delay (41.4%) was almost identical to the non-synesthetes’ with no delay (42.9%)! This advantage at the earliest stage of memory implies that synesthetic experiences have perceptual underpinnings, and an enhancement in multiple memory stages. Future studies should examine the neural basis of this advantage, particularly in early visual areas, which have been shown to be involved in grapheme-color synesthesia (Hubbard et al., 2011; Gosavi et al., CNS 2016) and iconic memory processes (Sergent et al., 2011).
Topic Area: PERCEPTION & ACTION: Multisensory