Memory Consolidation of Attended Information Is Optional: Comment on Jiang et al. (2016)

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Attribute amnesia is a phenomenon in which information about a stimulus that was just recently used to perform a task is poorly remembered in a surprise test (Chen & Wyble, 2015a). In a recent article by Jiang, Shupe, Swallow, and Tan (2016), this effect was replicated but with an additional priming measure that revealed some carryover memory for the information that participants had trouble explicitly reporting on the surprise trial. Their work invites a discussion of the underlying cause of attribute amnesia by suggesting that the surprise question caused an overwriting of working memory contents. Although we agree that overwriting may be partially responsible for the inability to report, data from other experiments have suggested that a failure to consolidate a robust memory of the attended information is a major cause of the amnesia. We discuss experimental evidence supporting the theory that memory consolidation of attended information is an optional process that can be selectively evoked by task requirements.

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