How visual memory changes with intervening recall

Q J Exp Psychol (Hove). 2019 Jul;72(7):1646-1656. doi: 10.1177/1747021818808524. Epub 2018 Nov 2.


Being asked to recount a visual memory is common in educational settings, spatial navigation, and crime investigation. Previous studies show that recounting one's memory can benefit subsequent memory, but most of this work either used verbal materials or conflated category memory with memory for visual details. To test whether recounting may introduce visually-specific interference effects, we tested people's memory for photographs of objects, but introduced an intervening phase in which people described their memory. We separated memory for the specific exemplar from memory for the basic-level category. Contrary to recent findings on maps and colours, the intervening retrieval practice did not consistently strengthen exemplar memory of objects. Instead, recounting one's visual memory appeared to introduce interference that sometimes cancelled the benefit of increased retrieval effort. Delaying the final memory test by 24 hr increased the benefit of retrieval practice. These findings suggest that intervening retrieval has multiple effects on visual memory. Instead of being a snapshot, this memory constantly changes with retrieval practice and with time.

Keywords: Visual memory; intervening recall; testing effect; verbal overshadowing.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Feedback, Sensory
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory and Learning Tests
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Psychology, Educational
  • Spatial Navigation
  • Time Factors