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Psychol Res. 2006 May;70(3):200-17. Epub 2005 Apr 21.

Organization of visuo-spatial serial memory: interaction of temporal order with spatial and temporal grouping.

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Department of Psychology, University of Plymouth, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA Devon, UK.


This study investigates whether memory for sequences of spatial locations can be represented hierarchically, that is, as successive groups containing the order of constituent locations. Two grouping manipulations are used: Temporal grouping, based on the verbal serial memory literature, and spatial grouping, based on recent empirical work on visuo-spatial serial memory. In Experiment 1, we examine the relationship between spatial grouping and temporal order and showed that recall performance increases when both temporal and spatial organization correlate, but decreases when they clash. Experiments 2 and 3 show that the latter result is confounded by differences in path length (length of spatial path defined by the locations) between conditions, and that no effect of the spatial organization is observed when path length is controlled for. In Experiment 4, an alternative method to spatial grouping, temporal grouping, is used to induce hierarchical organization. A recall advantage is found in the temporal grouping condition. The results suggest that hierarchical representations can be imposed on order information for visuo-spatial sequences, either when participants have pre-existing knowledge about the form of the path formed by the sequence or when temporal boundaries delimit chunks; that increased path length is the cause of the performance decrement observed when dots from separate spatial groups are presented successively; and that path length and more generally sequence characteristics should be taken into account in designing future research on visuo-spatial serial memory.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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