Listen up, eye movements play a role in verbal memory retrieval
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People fixate on blank spaces if visual stimuli previously occupied these regions of space. This so-called “looking at nothing” (LAN) phenomenon is said to be a part of information retrieval from internal memory representations, but the exact nature of the relationship between LAN and memory retrieval is unclear. While evidence exists for an influence of LAN on memory retrieval for visuospatial stimuli, evidence for verbal information is mixed. Here, we tested the relationship between LAN behavior and memory retrieval in an episodic retrieval task where verbal information was presented auditorily during encoding. When participants were allowed to gaze freely during subsequent memory retrieval, LAN occurred, and it was stronger for correct than for incorrect responses. When eye movements were manipulated during memory retrieval, retrieval performance was higher when participants fixated on the area associated with to-be-retrieved information than when fixating on another area. Our results provide evidence for a functional relationship between LAN and memory retrieval that extends to verbal information.
KeywordsIncorrect Response Memory Retrieval Response Accuracy Verbal Information Retrieval Performance
The authors would like to thank Claudia Dietzel and Lars Eberspach for collecting the data that was reported here, Denise Schneider for recording auditory materials and Anja Prittmann for helpful comments.
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