Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Through the gateway of the senses: investigating the influence of sensory modality-specific retrieval cues on involuntary episodic memory

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Involuntary memories are memories of past events that come to mind with no preceding attempts of retrieval. They typically arise in response to situational cues, but little is known as to how such cues modulate involuntary memories. Here, we examined how the sensory modality of the cues affects involuntary memory frequency and content. Participants watched first-person perspective films and were later presented with visuospatial and/or auditory cues from the films. We then assessed their experience of involuntary memories for other moments from the films. Across Experiments 1 and 2, visuospatial cues resulted in a greater frequency of involuntary memories, and produced memories with a higher proportion of visual content. In Experiment 3, this effect was replicated using a more auditorily engaging film and occurred whether participants focused on the film's auditory or visual components, but was more pronounced when there was a match between encoding fixation and the retrieval cue. These findings suggest that visuospatial cues may outshine auditory cues in terms of involuntary memory elicitation and content.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2020

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