Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Delayed Memory for Visual-Haptic Exploration of Familiar Objects

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Delayed Memory for Visual-Haptic Exploration of Familiar Objects

Article excerpt

Long-term memory of haptic, visual, and cross-modality information was investigated. In Experiment 1, subjects briefly explored 40 commonplace objects visually or haptically and then received a recognition test with categorically similar foils in the same or the alternative modality both immediately and after 1 week. Recognition was best for visual input and test, with haptic memory still apparent after a week's delay. Recognition was poorest in the cross-modality conditions, with performance on the haptic-visual and visual-haptic cross-modal conditions being nearly identical. Visual and haptic information decayed at similar rates across a week delay. In Experiment 2, subjects simultaneously viewed and handled the same objects, and transfer was tested in a successive cue-modality paradigm. Performance with the visual modality again exceeded that with the haptic modality. Furthermore, initial errors on the haptic test were often corrected when followed by the visual presentation, both immediately and after 1 week. However, visual test errors were corrected by haptic cuing on the immediate test only. These results are discussed in terms of shared information between the haptic and visual modalities, and the ease of transfer between these modalities immediately and after a substantial delay.

We experience the environment through various sensory modalities working in concert. A multisensory process has behavioral advantages, including speeded response and improved recognition of novel and familiar objects in noisy contexts (Newell, 2004). Although the visual system plays the major role in sensory perception (Ernst & Banks, 2002; James et al, 2002; Millar & Al-Attar, 2005), objects can also be recognized quickly and accurately through haptic exploration alone (Klatzky, Lederman, & Metzger, 1985; Norman, Norman, Clayton, Lianekhammy, & Zielke, 2004).

To what extent are the visual and haptic sensory modalities truly integrated, and to what extent are they separate? Both visual and haptic object recognition are based on the extraction of basic features and their spatial arrangement, which together define an object. However, disparate features such as context, motion, color, texture, or size, which are analyzed separately, must converge to generate such a coherent percept.

One explanation is that there are points of convergence of the parallel pathways in multimodal brain regions that integrate information from diverse modalities (Shimojo & Shams, 2001). Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) indicate that the haptic system activates the visual processing system in some instances and may facilitate mental representation of objects or be part of a cross-modal network encoding information from both vision and touch (James et al., 2002).

A handful of studies have explored cross-modality transfer after short delays. Easton, Srinivas, and Greene (1997) found that both unimodal and cross-modal accuracy rates were high for both explicit memory and implicit priming for words presented visually or in a raised format. Norman et al. (2004) demonstrated that recognition accuracy of objects for the unimodal visual condition surpassed the cross-modal conditions, suggesting that the two modalities were not necessarily equivalent in regard to detail. Bushnell and Baxt (1999) found that children, on an immediate test, demonstrated good cross-modality transfer for familiar objects but not for unfamiliar objects. Of critical importance to the present experiment, however, no studies have tested haptic or visual-haptic cross-modal memory across delays of more than 1 h.

The present study investigated haptic, visual, and crossmodality memory immediately and after 1 week. In each experiment, the recognition test contained studied objects intermixed with foils from the same category. This guaranteed that correct recognition was based on retention of critical features rather than the category name. …

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