Project Title

The Magical Number 4 Limits Selection of Object Categories For Encoding into Visual Long-term Memory

Presenter Hometown

Morehead

Major

Psychology

Department

Psychology

Degree

Graduate

Mentor

D. Alexander Varakin

Mentor Department

Psychology

Abstract

Previous research by Varakin & Hale (2014) suggests that intentional encoding instructions improve recognition memory tests through generic-attentional mechanisms rather than encoding specific mechanisms. Attention is limited in capacity. If these benefits are derived from an attentional mechanism, they should also have a similar capacity limit. The goal of this project was to examine whether such a capacity hinders these benefits. During the first phase, participants (N = 471) were shown a series of objects belonging to different categories (e.g. birds, chairs, dogs). Each object was displayed one at a time at the center of a computer screen. Participants were given one of two tasks. Participants were either instructed to either keep a running count of the number of objects belonging to specific categories or memorize the number of objects belonging to specific categories. Participants were instructed to count or memorize objects belonging to 1, 2, or 5 categories. Participants then completed a recognition task, where they were presented with objects from two categories, one that was relevant, and one that was irrelevant. The findings revealed that task (memorizing vs. counting) was not significant. The interaction between the number of relevant categories and object relevance was significant (p <. 01). Participants tasked with counting or memorizing 1 or 2 object categories performed better on the recognition task than participants tasked with counting or memorizing 5 object categories. These findings suggest that the limit of this generic-attentional mechanism is about 3 or 4 times (Cowan, 2000, Behavioral and Brain Sciences).

Presentation format

Poster

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The Magical Number 4 Limits Selection of Object Categories For Encoding into Visual Long-term Memory

Previous research by Varakin & Hale (2014) suggests that intentional encoding instructions improve recognition memory tests through generic-attentional mechanisms rather than encoding specific mechanisms. Attention is limited in capacity. If these benefits are derived from an attentional mechanism, they should also have a similar capacity limit. The goal of this project was to examine whether such a capacity hinders these benefits. During the first phase, participants (N = 471) were shown a series of objects belonging to different categories (e.g. birds, chairs, dogs). Each object was displayed one at a time at the center of a computer screen. Participants were given one of two tasks. Participants were either instructed to either keep a running count of the number of objects belonging to specific categories or memorize the number of objects belonging to specific categories. Participants were instructed to count or memorize objects belonging to 1, 2, or 5 categories. Participants then completed a recognition task, where they were presented with objects from two categories, one that was relevant, and one that was irrelevant. The findings revealed that task (memorizing vs. counting) was not significant. The interaction between the number of relevant categories and object relevance was significant (p <. 01). Participants tasked with counting or memorizing 1 or 2 object categories performed better on the recognition task than participants tasked with counting or memorizing 5 object categories. These findings suggest that the limit of this generic-attentional mechanism is about 3 or 4 times (Cowan, 2000, Behavioral and Brain Sciences).