Differences in perceptual memory determine generalization patterns

Ann Kathrin Zenses, Jessica C. Lee, Valérie Plaisance, Jonas Zaman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
64 Downloads (Pure)


Although memory of past experiences is crucial for the ability to transfer knowledge to new situations, surprisingly little research has directly investigated the relationship between memory and generalization. The present study sought to investigate how the perceptual memory of a trained stimulus influences generalization to similar stimuli. Forty participants underwent a fear conditioning procedure on Day 1, and separate memory recall and generalization tests on Day 2. We focused on two aspects of perceptual memory: namely memory bias (i.e., over- or underestimation of stimulus magnitude) and uncertainty. We found that memory bias predicted the pattern of generalized self-reported (expectancy ratings) and psychophysiological responses (fear-potentiated startle responses). Memory uncertainty was measured in two ways: self-reported uncertainty ratings and variability in stimulus recall. We found that higher levels of self-reported memory uncertainty corresponded with a broader generalization gradient on US expectancy, while greater variability in memory recall was associated with a broader generalization gradient on fear-potentiated startle responses. Taken together, our findings suggest that memory is an important determinant of generalized behavior and illustrate the need to account for these interindividual differences in perceptual memory when examining the generalization of learned responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number103777
Pages (from-to)103777
Number of pages9
JournalBehaviour Research and Therapy
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
JL received salary support from the Australian Research Council (DP190103738). JZ is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO, 12P8619N) and received funding from the Efic-Grunthal grant (EGG ID 358254826), a Special Research Funds (FWO, 1500620 N) and the KU Leuven Research Council (POR/20/001). The research was sponsored by the ??Asthenes?? long-term structural funding (METH/15/011) ? Methusalem grant by the Flemish Government.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Elsevier Ltd


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