Tracking the Development of Automaticity in Memory Search with Human Electrophysiology

AbstractShiffrin and Schneider (1977) demonstrated that highly efficient memory- and visual-search performance could be achieved through consistent item-to-response mapping (CM) training. It is theorized that subjects shifted from relying on working memory to learned item-response associations in long-term memory (Logan, 1988). The theory was tested and explored mostly through behavioral experiments and computational modeling. In a recent series of articles involving visual search (e.g. Woodman et al, 2013; Carlisle et al. 2011), Woodman and colleagues found that the contralateral-delay activity (CDA) of human event-related potentials is related to the maintenance of information in visual working memory and that the magnitude of the CDA decreases when target information is stored in long-term memory. We employed the CDA and other neural measures to study the nature of memory retrieval in CM memory search tasks. We observed a significant reduction in the magnitude of the CDA in CM training compared to a control condition in which item- response mappings varied from trial to trial (VM). The results provided converging evidence supporting the classic theoretical interpretation of the bases for CM and VM memory search. The results also raised interesting questions concerning the detailed interpretation of CDA.

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