The eyes of the past: larger pupil size for autobiographical memories retrieved from field perspective

Neurol Sci. 2022 Jan;43(1):661-666. doi: 10.1007/s10072-021-05297-w. Epub 2021 May 7.


Background: Visual perspective during memory retrieval has mainly been evaluated with methodologies based on introspection and subjective reports. The current study investigates whether visual perspective can be evaluated with a physiological measurement: pupil dilation.

Methods: While their pupil diameter was measured with an eye-tracker, forty-five participants retrieved one memory from a field perspective (i.e., as viewed through our own eyes) and one memory from an observer perspective (i.e., as viewed from a spectator's standpoint). After retrieval, participants rated the emotional intensity of the memories.

Results: Analysis demonstrated larger pupils during the retrieval of memories from a field perspective and higher emotional intensity for memories retrieved from a field perspective.

Discussion: The larger pupils for memories recalled from a field perspective could, however, not be attributed to their higher emotional intensity. These findings suggest that pupil dilation could be used as a physiological assessment of visual perspective during memory retrieval.

Keywords: Autobiographical memory; Mental imagery; Pupil dilation; Vantage point; Visual perspective.

MeSH terms

  • Emotions
  • Humans
  • Memory, Episodic*
  • Mental Recall