What is it about?

Decades of research has shown that what we remember affects how we visually explore our environment. For instance, our memory for the arrangement of furniture in a room can determine which areas we explore while searching for our keys in that room. But what happens to such memory-based viewing when we intentionally control our memory retrieval? In this study, we find that viewers' attempts to control memory for learned information is reflected in their eye-movements, such that viewing of remembered content is reduced. These results suggest that controlling memory can alter what we pay attention to.

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Why is it important?

These findings have implications for our understanding of how the memory system interacts with the occulomotor system (the system that controls eye-movements) in the brain. Importantly, some psychological disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder are characterised by maladaptive spontaneous retrieval of traumatic events, disrupting daily functioning. Our study provides preliminary evidence that conscious control of memory may reduce the influence of such traumatic memories on attention allocation, and improve functioning. However, more research is required to test how these results generalise to emotional memories, and to clinical populations.

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This page is a summary of: Control of memory retrieval alters memory-based eye movements., Journal of Experimental Psychology Learning Memory and Cognition, December 2023, American Psychological Association (APA),
DOI: 10.1037/xlm0001321.
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