Animacy and threat in recognition memory
Animate items are better remembered than inanimate items, suggesting that human memory has evolved to prioritize information related to survival. The proximate mechanisms for the animacy effect are not yet known, but one possibility is that animate items are more likely to capture attention, which then leads to better memory for those items. The first experiment independently manipulated the animacy and perceived threat of studied items and found that both target recognition and false-alarm recognition were higher for animate items compared to inanimate items and for threatening items compared to non-threatening items. The effects were eliminated when d’ scores were calculated. The second experiment used a response signal delay (RSD) manipulation where participants were forced to respond after a short (500 ms) or long (2,000 ms) time delay during the recognition test. Similar to the first experiment, the effects of animacy and threat for target recognition and false-alarm recognition persisted and did not interact with the RSD manipulation. Taken together, the results of the studies suggest that the animacy and threat effects in memory are robust and that attention capture might be at least partly responsible for the animacy effect.
Memory and Cognition
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Leding J. K. (2020). Animacy and threat in recognition memory. Memory & cognition, 48(5), 788–799. https://doi.org/10.3758/s13421-020-01017-5