Perceived Animacy is Prioritized in VWM
 
 
Here are some demonstrations of the various conditions discussed in the following paper:
van Buren, B., & Scholl, B. J. (2017). Minds in motion in memory: Enhanced spatial memory driven by the perceived animacy of simple shapes. Cognition, 163, 87-92.
These demonstrations are provided as Quicktime movies, which can be downloaded or viewed directly in most web-browsers. These movies are a bit large and choppy, but they should be sufficient to illustrate the basic conditions. As highly compressed versions of the original stimuli, these movies may not preserve the precise spatial and temporal characteristics of the originals.  
 
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 give rise to such percepts, but much less about the consequences for other aspects of perception and cognition. In particular, no previous research to our knowledge has explored the influence that perceived animacy from spatiotemporal cues may have on subsequent memory. Here we did so, asking whether subjects better remember the locations of displays that are seen as animate vs. inanimate, controlling 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.) We designed four experiments in which subjects played a 'matching game' -- clicking on panels two at a time to reveal animations with moving shapes. Across all 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. Perceiving animacy influences subsequent visual memory, perhaps due to the ecological significance of such stimuli, in a novel form of 'adaptive memory'.  
 
Darts Animation (Experiment 1) (712 KB)
Experiment 1 featured an eight-panel matching game. Animations always contained a disc and five darts, which moved randomly. Darts in a given animation stayed oriented toward the disc (0° -- the Wolfpack), or 45°, 90° or 135° to its right. Subjects located Wolfpack animation pairs more efficiently, as evidenced by fewer redundent clicks. It appears that animate motion is prioritized in visual working memory.  
 
Darts 180° Control Animation (Experiment 2) (1.1 MB)
Could the Wolfpack's memory advantage be due to the convergence of the shapes' symmetry axes, rather than to any sort of perceived animacy? For Experiment 2, we developed a ten-panel matching game which included an extra pair of animations in which the darts stayed oriented 180° (i.e. directly away from) the disc -- thus equating 'symmetry axis convergence' while eliminating the perception of animacy. Subjects matched such pairs efficiently, but not as well as with the Wolfpack pairs.  
 
Discs with 'Eyes' Animation (Experiment 3) (1.3 MB)
Is the Wolfpack's memory advantage specific to 'darts' (whose fronts are defined by conspicuous points)? To find out, Experiment 3 replicated this effect using a very different kind of oriented stimulus -- discs with 'eyes' on one side depicted by small dots.  
 
Lone Wolf Animation (Experiment 4) (520 KB)
How many wolves are required for such 'Wolfpack' effects? To find out, Experiment 4 replicated the effect using a single 'lone wolf' (again using a disc with 'eyes').