Memory in motion: movement dynamics reveal memory strength

Psychon Bull Rev. 2012 Oct;19(5):906-13. doi: 10.3758/s13423-012-0281-3.


Recognition memory is typically examined as a discrete end-state, describable by static variables, such as accuracy, response time, and confidence. In the present study, we combined real-time mouse-tracking with subsequent, overt confidence estimates to examine the dynamic nature of memory decisions. By examining participants' streaming x-, y- mouse coordinates during recognition decisions, we observed that movement trajectories revealed underlying response confidence. More confident decisions were associated with shorter decision times and more linear response trajectories. Less confident decisions were made slowly, with increased trajectory curvature. Statistical indices of curvature and decision times, including area-under-the-curve and time to maximum deviation, suggested that memory strength relates to response dynamics. Whether participants were correct or incorrect, old responses showed a stronger correspondence between mouse trajectories and confidence, relative to new responses. We suggest that people subjectively experience a correspondence between feelings of memory and feelings of confidence; that subjective experience reveals itself in real-time decision processes, as suggested by sequential sampling models of recognition decisions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Decision Making*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Motor Activity*
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult