The Relationship Between Attention During Study and Mnemonic Discrimination at Test
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Description: In everyday life, people participant in events that are similar to past experiences. For example, people order similar meals from restaurants and have related conversations with the same friend. When current events share features with existing memories, this can create interference in long-term memory for the specific details of similar experiences. Such interference can be avoided when new events are encoded as representations that are distinct from existing memories. This process of orthogonalizing memory representations, referred to as pattern separation, is assumed to be supported by computations in the hippocampus (Norman & O’Reilly, 2003). Models of pattern separation assume that related new events can be encoded as such when people successfully retrieve and compare those events with existing memories (i.e., using a recall-to-reject strategy). Effective pattern separation should thus depend partly on how well people had encoded and stored prior events. However, most empirical research has focused on the neural mechanisms supporting encoding of new events with less emphasis on the processes that support effective formation of initial event representations during encoding (e.g., see Moliter et al., 2014). To address this gap, we will examine how self-reported task engagement while encoding everyday objects supports subsequent rejection of similar but not identical events using an object-based Mnemonic Similarity Task (MST). The MST is a modified recognition paradigm that taxes pattern separation by requiring participants to discriminate studied objects from similar lures that were not identical to studied objects. Based on work showing that self-reported task engagement is associated with better subsequent memory performance (Blondé et al., 2022), we sought to examine whether such engagement would also predict lure rejection. Specifically, we are interested in whether lure discrimination is better supported when people earlier reported that they were encoding objects during study.