RESEARCH SUPPORT, NON-U.S. GOV'T
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Ambient visual information confers a context-specific, long-term benefit on memory for haptic scenes.

Cognition 2013 September
We investigated the effects of indirect, ambient visual information on haptic spatial memory. Using touch only, participants first learned an array of objects arranged in a scene and were subsequently tested on their recognition of that scene which was always hidden from view. During haptic scene exploration, participants could either see the surrounding room or were blindfolded. We found a benefit in haptic memory performance only when ambient visual information was available in the early stages of the task but not when participants were initially blindfolded. Specifically, when ambient visual information was available a benefit on performance was found in a subsequent block of trials during which the participant was blindfolded (Experiment 1), and persisted over a delay of one week (Experiment 2). However, we found that the benefit for ambient visual information did not transfer to a novel environment (Experiment 3). In Experiment 4 we further investigated the nature of the visual information that improved haptic memory and found that geometric information about a surrounding (virtual) room rather than isolated object landmarks, facilitated haptic scene memory. Our results suggest that vision improves haptic memory for scenes by providing an environment-centred, allocentric reference frame for representing object location through touch.

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