Memory & Cognition

, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 544–557 | Cite as

Attentional influences on memory formation: A tale of a not-so-simple story

  • J. Ortiz-Tudela
  • B. Milliken
  • L. Jiménez
  • J. Lupiáñez


Is there a learning mechanism triggered by mere expectation violation? Is there some form of memory enhancement inherent to an event mismatching our predictions? Across seven experiments, we explore this issue by means of a validity paradigm. Although our manipulation clearly succeeded in generating an expectation and breaking it, the memory consequences of that expectation mismatch are not so obvious. We report here evidence of a null effect of expectation on memory formation. Our results (1) show that enhanced memory for unexpected events is not easily achieved and (2) call for a reevaluation of previous accounts of memory enhancements based on prediction error or difficulty of processing. Limitations of this study and possible implications for the field are discussed in detail.


attention familiarity in recognition memory implicit memory memory recognition 



The present research was funded by the Spanish Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad with a research grant to Juan Lupiáñez (PSI2014-52764-P) and a research grant to Luis Jiménez (PSI2015-70990-P).


  1. Alameda, J. R., & Cuetos, F. (1995). Diccionario de frecuencias de las unidades lingüísticas del castellano [Spanish dictionary of the frequencies of linguistic units]. Oviedo, Spain: Universidad de Oviedo, Servicio de Publ.Google Scholar
  2. Bajo, M. T., Burton, A., Burton, E., & Canas, J.-J. (1994). Word recognition across orthographies: Another look at the interaction between context and degradation. European Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 6(2), 171–193.
  3. Bjork, R. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1992). A new theory of disuse and an old theory of stimulus fluctuation. In A. F. Healy, S. M. Kosslyn, & R. M. Shiffrin (Eds.), Essays in honor of William K. Estes, Vol. 1. From learning theory to connectionist theory; Vol. 2. From learning processes to cognitive processes (pp. 35–67). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.Google Scholar
  4. Botvinick, M. M., Braver, T. S., Barch, D. M., Carter, C. S., & Cohen, J. D. (2001). Conflict monitoring and cognitive control. Psychological review, 108(3), 624.Google Scholar
  5. Chica, A. B., Martín-Arévalo, E., Botta, F., & Lupiáñez, J. (2014). The spatial orienting paradigm: How to design and interpret spatial attention experiments. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 40, 35–51.
  6. Corbetta, M., Patel, G., & Shulman, G. L. (2008). The reorienting system of the human brain: From environment to theory of mind. Neuron, 58(3), 306–324. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  7. Craik, F. I. M., & Lockhart, R. S. (1972). Levels of processing: A framework for memory research. Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior, 11(6), 671–684. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. de Winstanley, P. A., & Bjork, E. L. (1997). Processing instructions and the generation effect: A test of the multifactor transfer-appropriate processing theory. Memory (Hove, England), 5(3), 401–421.
  9. Dienes, Z. (2011). Bayesian versus orthodox statistics: Which side are you on? Perspectives on Psychological Science, 6(3), 274–290.
  10. Fisher, A., Anderson, G. B., Peng, R., & Leek, J. (2014). A randomized trial in a massive online open course shows people don’t know what a statistically significant relationship looks like, but they can learn. PeerJ, 2, e589.CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  11. Funes, M. J., Lupiáñez, J., & Milliken, B. (2007). Separate mechanisms recruited by exogenous and endogenous spatial cues: Evidence from a spatial Stroop paradigm. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 33(2), 348–362.
  12. Hauer, B. J. A., & MacLeod, C. M. (2006). Endogenous versus exogenous attentional cuing effects on memory. Acta Psychologica, 122(3), 305–320. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. Henson, R. N., & Gagnepain, P. (2010). Predictive, interactive multiple memory systems. Hippocampus, 20(11), 1315–26.
  14. Jarosz, A. F., & Wiley, J. (2014). What are the odds? A practical guide to computing and reporting Bayes factors. The Journal of Problem Solving, 7, 2–9. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. JASP Team. (2016). JASP (Version 0.7. 5.5) [Computer software]. Retrieved from https://jasp-stats. org
  16. Kahneman, D., Treisman, A., & Gibbs, B. J. (1992). The reviewing of object files: Object-specific integration of information. Cognitive Psychology, 24(2), 175–219. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Krebs, R. M., Boehler, C. N., De Belder, M., & Egner, T. (2015). Neural conflict-control mechanisms improve memory for target stimuli. Cerebral Cortex (New York, N.Y.: 1991).
  18. Kurby, C. A., & Zacks, J. M. (2008). Segmentation in the perception and memory of events. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 12(2), 72–79. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  19. Lambert, A., Roser, M., Wells, I., & Heffer, C. (2006). The spatial correspondence hypothesis and orienting in response to central and peripheral spatial cues. Visual Cognition, 13(1), 65–88.
  20. Logan, G. D. (1998). What is learned during automatization? II. Obligatory encoding of spatial location. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 24(6), 1720–1736. PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Ly, A., Etz, A., Marsman, M., & Wagenmakers, E. J. (2017). Replication Bayes factors from evidence updating. Retrieved from
  22. Markant, J., & Amso, D. (2014). Leveling the playing field: Attention mitigates the effects of intelligence on memory. Cognition, 131(2), 195–204. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  23. Martín-Arévalo, E., Lupiáñez, J., Botta, F., & Chica, A. B. (2015). Endogenous attention modulates attentional and motor interference from distractors: Evidence from behavioral and electrophysiological results. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 132. PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  24. Mulligan, N. W., Spataro, P., & Picklesimer, M. (2014). The attentional boost effect with verbal materials. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 40(4), 1049–1063. Retrieved from PubMedGoogle Scholar
  25. Ortiz-Tudela, J., Milliken, B., Botta, F., LaPointe, M. R., & Lupiañez, J. (2016). A cow on the prairie vs. a cow on the street: Long-term consequences of semantic conflict on episodic encoding. Psychological Research.
  26. Peirce, J. W. (2007). PsychoPy—Psychophysics software in Python. Journal of Neuroscience Methods, 162(1/2), 8–13. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  27. Posner, M. I. (1980). Orienting of attention. The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 32(1), 3–25.
  28. Psychology Software Tools. (2012). E-Prime 2.0 [Computer software]. Pittsburgh, PA. Retrieved from
  29. Rosner, T. M., D’Angelo, M. C., MacLellan, E., & Milliken, B. (2015a). Selective attention and recognition: Effects of congruency on episodic learning. Psychological Research.
  30. Rosner, T. M., Davis, H., & Milliken, B. (2015b). Perceptual blurring and recognition memory: A desirable difficulty effect revealed. Acta Psychologica, 160, 11–22. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Sebastián-Gallés, N. (2000). LEXESP: Léxico informatizado del español [Spanish informatized lexicon]. Edicions Universitat Barcelona.Google Scholar
  32. Swallow, K. M., & Jiang, Y. V. (2010). The attentional boost effect: Transient increases in attention to one task enhance performance in a second task. Cognition, 115(1), 118–132. CrossRefPubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  33. van Kesteren, M. T. R., Ruiter, D. J., Fernández, G., & Henson, R. N. (2012). How schema and novelty augment memory formation. Trends in Neurosciences, 35(4), 211–219. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Verguts, T., & Notebaert, W. (2008). Hebbian learning of cognitive control: Dealing with specific and nonspecific adaptation. Psychological Review, 115(2), 518–25. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Verguts, T., & Notebaert, W. (2009). Adaptation by binding: a learning account of cognitive control. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13(6), 252–257. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Wagenmakers, E.-J. (2007). A practical solution to the pervasive problems of p values. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(5), 779–804. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Watkins, O. C., & Watkins, M. J. (1975). Build up of proactive inhibition as a cue-overload effect. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning & Memory, 1(4), 442–452. Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Experimental PsychologyUniversidad de GranadaGranadaSpain
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyMcMaster UniversityHamiltonCanada
  3. 3.Department of PsychologyUniversidad de SantiagoSantiago de CompostelaSpain

Personalised recommendations