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That gut feeling may actually reflect a reliable memory
Date:2/8/2009

words, they could focus on memorizing half of the images but were greatly distracted from memorizing the others.

A short time later, they viewed pairs of similar kaleidoscope images in a recognition test.

"Remarkably, people were more accurate in selecting the old image when they had been distracted than when they had paid full attention," Paller said. "They also were more accurate when they claimed to be guessing than when they registered some familiarity for the image."

Splitting attention during a memory test usually makes memory worse. "But our research showed that even when people weren't paying as much attention, their visual system was storing information quite well," Paller said.

When implicit recognition took place, EEG signals were recorded from a set of electrodes placed on each person's head. The brain waves were distinct from those associated with conscious memory experiences. A unique signal of implicit recognition was seen a quarter of a second after study participants saw each old image.

The findings include memory effects and brain-wave effects. The memory effects with kaleidoscopes were found in two groups of 24 people each (published in a prior paper: Voss & Paller, 2008). The brain-wave effects were found in one group of 12 subjects. Both memory and brain-wave effects were also seen in pilot studies not reported in either paper.

"The novel results show that when people try to remember, they can know more than they think they know," Paller said.

The study builds upon a body of research that shows that amnesia victims with severe memory problems often have strong implicit memories.

The study suggests that we shouldn't rely only on conscious memory, Paller concludes. "It suggests that we also need to develop our intuitive nature and creativity. Intuition may have an important role in finding answers to all sorts of problems in everyday life -- including big ones such as ou
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Contact: Pat Vaughan Tremmel
p-tremmel@northwestern.edu
847-491-4892
Northwestern University
Source:Eurekalert

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