Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Representational Momentum and the Landmark Attraction Effect

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology

Representational Momentum and the Landmark Attraction Effect

Article excerpt

Abstract The effect of a large stationary landmark on memory for the location of a smaller moving target was examined. Forward displacement of the target was larger when the target moved toward the landmark than when it moved away from the landmark. Target size and direction of motion also influenced displacement. When the target passed close by the landmark, forward displacement of the target was larger before the target passed by the cardinal axis of the landmark than after the target passed by the cardinal axis of the landmark. Memory for a target that passed by a landmark was also displaced toward the target along the axis orthogonal to motion. Control experiments ruled out biases toward the centre of the screen as causing the differences in displacement. The data support the hypotheses that representational momentum may combine with landmark attraction effects to influence the displacement of a target along the axis of motion.

Spatial memory exhibits a number of consistent biases. One type of bias distorts memory in ways consistent with the operation of environmentally invariant physical principles. For example, memory for the final position of a moving target that vanishes without warning is often distorted forward in the direction of anticipated future motion, and this bias has been referred to as representational momentum (e.g., Freyd & Finke, 1984; Hubbard, 1995b). A second type of bias distorts memory by decreasing the remembered distance between a target and a landmark (e.g., McNamara & Diwadkar, 1997; Sadalla, Burroughs, & Staplin, 1980; Tversky & Schiano, 1989), and this bias has been referred to as a landmark attraction effect (Bryant & Subbiah, 1994). These biases and distortions of memory result in a displacement of the remembered spatial position of a target; in other words, the remembered position of a previously perceived target stimulus is not the same as the actual position previously occupied by that target stimulus -- the remembered position is displaced from the actual position.

Studies of representational momentum have suggested that memory for spatial location may be influenced by memory averaging (e.g., Freyd & Johnson, 1987). Hubbard (1995b) distinguished between two senses of memory averaging: A temporal sense in which memory for the final position of a target is influenced by the memory of prior positions of the target, and a spatial sense in which memory for the final position of a target is influenced by the memory of nontarget stimuli that were presented concurrently with the target. It may be possible that remembered prior positions of a target could serve as landmarks, and via temporal memory averaging account for displacements of remembered position toward the average of those prior positions. However, it is more obvious and perhaps more commonplace that nontarget stimuli or context presented concurrently with the target may serve as landmarks. The presence of such concurrent nontarget stimuli or context could provide the opportunity for spatial memory averaging. Indeed, the landmark attraction effect as it is currently conceived may be a special case of a more general spatial memory averaging: Both landmark attraction effects and spatial memory averaging predict that memory for the position of a target should be displaced in the direction of a landmark.

Spatial memory averaging and landmark attraction effects are both consistent with a number of findings in the representational momentum literature. For example, if a rotating target is surrounded by a larger stationary square frame, forward displacement of the target is increased if the orientation of the frame is rotated slightly forward from the final orientation of the target, and forward displacement of the target is decreased if the orientation of the frame is rotated slightly backward from the final orientation of the target. Similarly, if the surrounding frame is in motion concurrently with the target, forward displacement of the target is increased if the frame is rotating in the same direction as the target, and forward displacement of the target is decreased if the frame is rotating in the direction opposite to the target (Hubbard, 1993). …

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