Intent to remember and von Restorff (isolation) effects reveal attentional processes

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Letters & Science


A classic finding in the memory literature is that participants remember items that are isolated, distinctive, or salient compared to items lacking in these characteristics. This finding is usually attributed to von Restorff (1933) which is when an item is isolated against a homogenous background; the learning of that isolated item is enhanced or facilitated. Block (2009) found that intent to remember a specific type of picture also enhances the subsequent recognition of it, and he suggested that increased attention to target stimuli is implicated. The three experiments reported here clarify the possible link between the attentional processes involving both of these effects. Participants saw a series of various types of pictures, with some participants being instructed to remember targets, such as human faces. The intentional memory effect was replicated. Other findings clarify the relationship between the von Restorff and intent-to-remember effects.




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