Minds in motion in memory: Enhanced spatial memory driven by the perceived animacy of simple shapes

Cognition 163:87-92 (2017)

Abstract
Even simple geometric shapes are seen as animate and goal-directed when they move in certain ways. Previous research has revealed a great deal about the cues that elicit such percepts, but much less about the consequences for other aspects of perception and cognition. Here we explored whether simple shapes that are perceived as animate and goal-directed are prioritized in memory. We investigated this by asking whether subjects better remember the locations of displays that are seen as animate vs. inanimate, con- trolling for lower-level factors. We exploited the ‘Wolfpack effect’: moving darts (or discs with ‘eyes’) that stay oriented toward a particular target are seen to be actively pursuing that target, even when they actually move randomly. (In contrast, shapes that stay oriented perpendicular to a target are correctly perceived to be drifting randomly.) Subjects played a ‘matching game’ – clicking on pairs of panels to reveal animations with moving shapes. Across four experiments, the locations of Wolfpack animations (compared to control animations equated on lower-level visual factors) were better remembered, in terms of more efficient matching. Thus perceiving animacy influences subsequent visual memory, perhaps due to the adaptive significance of such stimuli.
Keywords Animacy  Intentionality  Adaptive Memory
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DOI 10.1016/j.cognition.2017.02.006
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Perceptual Causality and Animacy.Brian J. Scholl & Patrice D. Tremoulet - 2000 - Trends in Cognitive Sciences 4 (8):299-309.

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