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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: October 2010

20 - Approaches to representational momentum: theories and models

from Part IV - Spatial phenomena: forward shift effects


Memory for the final position of a target is usually displaced in the direction of target motion, a finding referred to as representational momentum. There are several different approaches to explaining representational momentum, and these approaches range from low-level perceptual mechanisms (e.g., oculomotor behavior) to high-level cognitive mechanisms (e.g., internalization of the effects of momentum). These approaches are overviewed, and a classification system involving internalization theories, belief-based theories, neointernalization theories, low-level theories, and network models is proposed. The extent to which each approach is consistent with the wide range of existent empirical data regarding representational momentum is noted, and possible directions of and considerations for a more unified theory of displacement are addressed.

Memory for the final position of a previously viewed target is often displaced in the direction of target motion. This forward displacement has been referred to as representational momentum (Freyd & Finke 1984) and is influenced by numerous variables (Hubbard 1995b, 2005). Although initial studies of representational momentum appeared consistent with the hypothesis that observers internalize or incorporate the principle of momentum into the representation of the target, subsequent studies reported displacement inconsistent with such a literal internalization or incorporation of momentum. For example, variables other than implied momentum such as conceptual knowledge about target identity (Reed & Vinson 1996), expectations regarding future target motion (Verfaillie & d'Ydewalle 1991; Johnston & Jones 2006), attributions about the source of target motion (Hubbard & Ruppel 2002; Hubbard & Favretto 2003), and whether observers visually track the target (Kerzel 2000; Kerzel et al. 2001) influence displacement.

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