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Visual Metamemory: Metacognitive Control and Monitoring of Long-Term Visual Memory for Objects and People

23.4012, Saturday, 16-May, 8:30 am - 12:30 pm, Pavilion
Session: Visual Memory: Individual differences and models

Joshua New1, Caleb LoSchiavo1, Lisa Son1; 1Barnard College, Columbia University

People have a remarkable long-term memory for scenes and objects – recognizing thousands of images from only a few moments of study each. We asked whether this visual memory capacity is associated with any metacognitive functions: What sense do viewers have of their abilities to encode – and subsequently access – such large numbers of stimuli? We tested whether allowing participants to control the time studying each image (self-paced) would – relative to fixed display durations (computer-paced) – increase their performance in a 2AFC old-new recognition test. We also tested whether participants had some metacognitive knowledge about their visual memory traces, through their ‘bets’ on having successfully recognized each item. In Experiment 1, when participants were allowed an average of two seconds of study for each item, recognition performance was significantly higher for self-paced than computer-paced study items. In the self-paced condition, the amount of time studying items was not only a significant predictor of their successful recognition but also of viewers’ metacognitive awareness (i.e. confidence) about their accuracy. Studying objects again in Experiment 2 and individual people in Experiment 3, participants completed a self-paced block on Day 1 with unlimited study time, and completed a computer-paced block using the average of their self-paced study time on Day 8. Although performance was again higher after the self-paced study of objects in Experiment 2, such was not the case when controlling their study of people in Experiment 3 – perhaps complicated by factors such as attractiveness and distinctiveness. In both Experiment 2 and 3, the amount of time studying each item was again not only a significant predictor of recognition accuracy, but also of participants’ confidence in their identification. The study of visual material may be profitably informed by metacognitive control and during retrieval later by metacognitive monitoring.

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