Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Memory in Motion: Movement Dynamics Reveal Memory Strength

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Memory in Motion: Movement Dynamics Reveal Memory Strength

Article excerpt

Published online: 19 June 2012

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2012

Abstract Recognition memory is typically examined as a discrete end-state, describable by static variables, such as accuracy, response time, and confidence. In the present study, we combined real-time mouse-tracking with subsequent, overt confidence estimates to examine the dynamic nature of memory decisions. By examining participants' streaming x-, y- mouse coordinates during recognition decisions, we observed that movement trajectories revealed underlying response confidence. More confident decisions were associated with shorter decision times and more linear response trajectories. Less confident decisions were made slowly, with increased trajectory curvature. Statistical indices of curvature and decision times, including area-under-the- curve and time to maximum deviation, suggested that memory strength relates to response dynamics. Whether participants were correct or incorrect, old responses showed a stronger correspondence between mouse trajectories and confidence, relative to new responses. We suggest that people subjectively experience a correspondence between feelings of memory and feelings of confidence; that subjective experience reveals itself in real-time decision processes, as suggested by sequential sampling models of recognition decisions.

Keywords Recognition memory . Confidence estimates . Mouse-tracking . Temporal dynamics

In the study of recognition memory, a long-standing question has concerned the relationship of memorial accuracy to subjective feelings of confidence (e.g., Busey, Tunnicliff, Loftus, & Loftus, 2000; Dobbins, Kroll, & Yiu, 1998) and the associated concept of variations in memory strength (Wixted & Mickes, 2010). Although accuracy-confidence dissociations have been frequently observed, it is typically the case that participants are faster, more accurate, and have greater recollective detail when they express higher recognition confidence (Mickes, Wixted, & Wais, 2007; Ratcliff& Murdock, 1976). Such findings are consistent with both continuous signal detection theories (Wixted, 2007) and dual-process theories (Yonelinas, 2002). By either view, when a person correctly recognizes studied items as old, these memories range in relative strength, typically measured using metacognitive confidence estimates (e.g., 1 [very sure new] through 7 [very sure old]). The nature of confidence, as a proxy either for memory strength or separate processes, is central to theories of recognition memory (Parks & Yonelinas, 2007).

Although very strong memories are difficult to estimate using standard Likert scales (Mickes, Hwe, Wais, & Wixted, 2011), confidence ratings are almost exclusively used to gauge memory strength. However, participants' ultimate decisions, confidence estimates, and response times (RTs) may not reflect the same latent cognitive processes, as many standard memory theories assume (Pleskac & Busemeyer, 2010). Therefore, some researchers have proposed that all three components of recognition decisions may be described by sequential sampling models (e.g., Ratcliff& Starns, 2009), which suggest that perceivers continuously sample memorial strength from test items, comparing accumulated strength with a decision criterion. Recent models explain the relationship between decisions, confidence, and RTs by incorporating a dynamic driftdiffusion process, suggesting that evidence for old/new responses accrues over time. The present study was an attempt to make that time course observable, using dynamic mouse-tracking (Spivey, Grosjean, & Knoblich, 2005) to complement standard accuracy and RT measures. As described below, mouse-tracking provides rich, trial-level information during recognition (or other) decisions. In the present study, we report that, when people generated old recognition decisions, there was a close correspondence between physical movements of the computer mouse and subjective confidence. …

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