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Representational momentum when attention is divided

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Observers tend to misremember a transforming object's final appearance as further along in the direction of continued transformation. This forward bias, termed representational momentum (RM), suggests that the dynamics associated with an object cannot be ignored in the effort to remember a particular instance of the object. Two experiments tested how attentional focus affects this memory bias. Observers attended to one object, divided attention across more than one object, or performed a secondary task simultaneously with the RM task. For objects translating in space, diminished attention increased the forward memory shift, suggesting that under distraction, motion can be represented but the stopping point is less effectively represented. We propose that object dynamics are well represented when attention is distracted, but that representing a change—including stopping—in the dynamics requires attention. We suggest some experiments to examine this proposal further.


Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: February 1, 2002


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