Priorities for representation: Task settings and object interaction both influence object memory

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Following an active task, the memory representations for used and unused objects are different. However, it is not clear whether these differences arise due to prioritizing objects that are task-relevant, objects that are physically interacted with, or a combination of the two factors. The present study allowed us to tease apart the relative importance of task-relevance and physical manipulation on object memory. A paradigm was designed in which objects were either necessary to complete a task (target), moved out of the way (obstructing, but interacted with), or simply present in the environment (background). Participants’ eye movements were recorded with a portable tracker during the task, and they received a memory test on the objects after the task was completed. Results showed that manipulating an object is sufficient to change how information is extracted and retained from fixations, compared to background objects. Task-relevance provides an additional influence: information is accumulated and retained differently for manipulated target objects than manipulated obstructing objects. These findings demonstrate that object memory is influenced both by whether we physically interact with an object, and the relevance of that object to our behavioral goals.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)114-123
Number of pages10
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number1
Early online date3 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2016

Bibliographical note

Portions of this research were presented at the Experimental Psychological Society conference at the University of Kent (May, 2014).The first author is supported by a studentship provided by the University of Dundee. This study was conducted as part of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy by the first author.


  • action
  • perception
  • memory
  • intention
  • real-world


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