Value Directed Encoding and Value Source Memory

People can prioritize the information that is committed to memory such that information deemed more important is remembered better than information deemed less important. This effect is referred to as ‘value-directed encoding.’ The basis of this ability is an active focus of research with researchers suggesting both automatic and strategic processes contributing to the effect. Our current research examines how much information about value itself is bound into the facilitated memory produced by value-directed encoding procedures and the degree to which observers use recognition decision heuristics to infer item value at testing. 

The Regulation of Memory Decision Criteria

Episodic recognition is the judgment that a stimulus has been encountered previously. Traditionally, researchers have focused on the sensitivity of recognition memory, that is, the general tendency to arrive at the correct recognition decision (old or new). However, subjects can be more or less cautious in rendering recognition decisions which is referred to as altering their decision bias or decision criterion. We have been investigating a two component model of this ability that has explicit and implicit components. For the former, one can can simply instruct subjects to be wary of one or other type of error (e.g., please avoid false calling new items studied). For the latter, we have been investigating the role of incremental reinforcement learning and are currently investigating whether, through gradual reinforcement, subjects can develop different biases for different classes of memoranda (e.g., words versus faces). If so, it would suggest that stimulus familiarity signals may be evaluated relatively early in processing.

Social Metamemory and It's Evaluation

Memory awareness is the ability to reflect upon the veracity and operating characteristics of one's own memories. In contrast, social metamemory is the ability to evaluate the veracity of others' memories. Surprisingly, we are able to do this well above chance, for example, when jurors evaluate the memory testimony of eyewitnesses. However, the core cognitive and perceptual processes contributing to this skill are unknown. Following on our research demonstrating that machine learning algorithms can distinguish accurate and inaccurate memories based on language content, we are developing research to evaluate how individual differences in witnesses and evaluators affect the transmission of information during social metamemory. For example, our prior work suggests that metamemory awareness is important for the ability to use outside cues or hints when one is making memory decisions. However, we do not know if metamemory awareness is important for the ability to effectively communicate one's own memory accuracy to others via language.

Confirmation of Search 

 A well established finding in Psychology is that prior exposure to materials increases subsequent liking of those materials. This is termed the 'mere exposure effect'. Typically it is thought that this effect occurs because prior exposure renders stimuli easier to subsequently process and this processing fluency is confused with positive affect during stimulus evaluation. However, under this model subjects should not show mere exposure effects when they realize that stimuli have been previously studied. In a series of studies, we demonstrated that subjects do rate explicitly recognized materials as more pleasant than baseline ratings. However, they also rate stimuli correctly judged as new as less pleasant than baseline.  We developed a confirmation of search model to explain these and other phenomena. Under the model it is assumed that subjects approach memory search with a confirmatory bias and this yields a positive affective response when retrieval is successful and a negative affective response when it fails. The model further assumes that subjects misattribute these retrieval outcome driven affective responses to the memoranda and this model successfully predicted that the successful retrieval of names and occupations of face stimuli would influence their rated attractiveness. We are currently verifying that this effect generalizes to the ratings of negative stimulus attributes and examining how it is related to the confidence of memory decisions.