Eye closure helps memory by reducing cognitive load and enhancing visualisation

Mem Cognit. 2011 Oct;39(7):1253-63. doi: 10.3758/s13421-011-0098-8.


Closing the eyes helps memory. We investigated the mechanisms underlying the eyeclosure effect by exposing 80 eyewitnesses to different types of distraction during the witness interview: blank screen (control), eyes closed, visual distraction, and auditory distraction. We examined the cognitive load hypothesis by comparing any type of distraction (visual or auditory) with minimal distraction (blank screen or eyes closed). We found recall to be significantly better when distraction was minimal, providing evidence that eyeclosure reduces cognitive load. We examined the modality-specific interference hypothesis by comparing the effects of visual and auditory distraction on recall of visual and auditory information. Visual and auditory distraction selectively impaired memory for information presented in the same modality, supporting the role of visualisation in the eyeclosure effect. Analysis of recall in terms of grain size revealed that recall of basic information about the event was robust, whereas recall of specific details was prone to both general and modality-specific disruptions.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Auditory Perception / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Eye*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Interview, Psychological
  • Male
  • Mental Recall / physiology*
  • Motion Pictures
  • Violence
  • Visual Perception / physiology
  • Young Adult