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Verbal descriptions improve visual working memory but have limited impact on visual long-term memory


Overkott, Clara; Souza, Alessandra S (2022). Verbal descriptions improve visual working memory but have limited impact on visual long-term memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 151(2):321-347.

Abstract

How do verbal descriptions affect visual memory over the short and long term? Here we show for the first time that verbal labeling can boost visual memories, but the source of this benefit depends on whether representations are maintained over the short term in visual working memory or over the long term in visual long-term memory. Across three experiments, we contrasted color memory of randomly colored objects when participants labeled (a) the color, (b) the object, or (c) the color-object binding, to memory under an articulatory suppression condition inhibiting labeling. Memory was tested at two time points: after three objects (visual working memory) and at the end of the experiment (visual long-term memory). In Experiment 1, color labeling improved, whereas object labeling impaired, visual working memory in comparison to suppression. Visual long-term memory remained unchanged across conditions. Experiment 2 tested whether this was attributable to poor overall long-term learning by repeating the colored objects over three successive working memory trials. This increased performance over the short and long term, yet labeling did not change learning rate over repetitions or delayed memory performance, showing no long-term memory benefit. In Experiment 3, a labeling benefit was observed when the color-object binding was labeled both over the short and long term. Mixture modeling indicated that color-labeling benefits in visual working memory resulted from an increase of detailed visual memory, whereas long-term memory benefits accrued from categorical representations. Our findings point to dissociations on the role of language in visual working memory and visual long-term memory.

Abstract

How do verbal descriptions affect visual memory over the short and long term? Here we show for the first time that verbal labeling can boost visual memories, but the source of this benefit depends on whether representations are maintained over the short term in visual working memory or over the long term in visual long-term memory. Across three experiments, we contrasted color memory of randomly colored objects when participants labeled (a) the color, (b) the object, or (c) the color-object binding, to memory under an articulatory suppression condition inhibiting labeling. Memory was tested at two time points: after three objects (visual working memory) and at the end of the experiment (visual long-term memory). In Experiment 1, color labeling improved, whereas object labeling impaired, visual working memory in comparison to suppression. Visual long-term memory remained unchanged across conditions. Experiment 2 tested whether this was attributable to poor overall long-term learning by repeating the colored objects over three successive working memory trials. This increased performance over the short and long term, yet labeling did not change learning rate over repetitions or delayed memory performance, showing no long-term memory benefit. In Experiment 3, a labeling benefit was observed when the color-object binding was labeled both over the short and long term. Mixture modeling indicated that color-labeling benefits in visual working memory resulted from an increase of detailed visual memory, whereas long-term memory benefits accrued from categorical representations. Our findings point to dissociations on the role of language in visual working memory and visual long-term memory.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Life Sciences > Developmental Neuroscience
Uncontrolled Keywords:Developmental Neuroscience, General Psychology, Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
Language:English
Date:1 February 2022
Deposited On:19 Jan 2023 15:27
Last Modified:30 Jan 2024 02:39
Publisher:American Psychological Association
ISSN:0096-3445
OA Status:Closed
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1037/xge0001084
PubMed ID:34516201