The consequences of encoding information on the maintenance of internally generated images and thoughts: the role of meaning complexes

Jonathan Smallwood, Rory C. O'Connor, Megan V. Sudberry, Crystal Haskell, Carrie Ballantyne

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

59 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Three experiments investigated the hypothesis that internally generated images and thoughts were driven by meaning complexes, a construct which reflects a synthesis of semantic meaning and personal salience (Klinger, 1999). Experiments 1 and 2 contrasted the mutual inhibition between encoding words and non-words on: (i) the frequency that thoughts and images unrelated to the task (task unrelated thought, TUT) were experienced (Experiment 1) and (ii) on the intensity of images generated from long-term memory and maintained under dual task conditions, which whilst familiar were not of particular personal salience (Experiment 2).
Experiment 3 examined the physiological arousal associated with the experience of TUT in a semantic encoding task. Evidence suggested that, in general, internally generated images and thoughts, irrespective of the personal salience, were suppressed by the co-ordination of information in working memory. In addition, only the experience of spontaneous images and thoughts of personal salience (TUT, Experiments 1 and 3) interfered reliably with the encoding/retrieval of semantic information from memory.
Finally, in Experiment 3, physiological arousal, as indexed by mean heart rate, was associated with a high frequency of TUT. The results of all three experiments support the notion that the maintenance of spontaneously occurring images and thoughts is simultaneously influenced by both the semantic content and the personal salience of the information held in working memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)789-820
Number of pages32
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2004
Externally publishedYes

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