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Poster E27

Do perceptual or conceptual organizations more strongly bias the formation of new episodic memories?

Poster Session E - Monday, April 15, 2024, 2:30 – 4:30 pm EDT, Sheraton Hall ABC

Ryan O'Donnell1 (, Alexa Tompary; 1Drexel University

New episodic memories often comprise schematic content derived from semantic knowledge (e.g., remembering books in an office even if absent; Brewer & Treyens, 1981). This suggests that semantic content reigns supreme when guiding memory formation, which is surprising given that semantic guidance is considered weaker during faster cognitive processes like attentional selection when compared to low-level features (e.g., color). As attention is often considered the gateway to memory access, we set out to evaluate whether semantic content is the largest factor in biasing episodic memories, or if lower-level perceptual similarities induce bias of equal magnitude? We modified a spatial mapping task (Tompary & Thompson-Schill, 2021) and organized to-be-remembered images into 6 clusters with either conceptual (“birds”, “sports equipment”, “vehicles”) or perceptual (“blue”, “green”, “brown”) overlap. Critical items possessed a conceptual and perceptual cluster feature (“blue bird”) and were displaced from their two clusters to evaluate how strongly their remembered location was biased towards each. In a small pilot sample (N = 11) we observed learning benefits from conceptual and perceptual clusters and nearly equivalent bias of critical items toward both cluster types. Though speculative, the current results suggest that conceptual organization is not the preferred method of memory organization, but rather one of multiple experience-based memory organization strategies that might be enabled by recruitment of discrete, modality-specific neural pathways. Future experiments plan to independently evaluate conceptual and perceptual biases in long-term memory formation, particularly in experimental settings where perceptual features are thought to be preferentially utilized (i.e., visual search).

Topic Area: LONG-TERM MEMORY: Episodic


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April 13–16  |  2024