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Bias Effects in the Possible/Impossible Object Decision Test with Matching Objects

Soldan, Anja; Hilton, John; Stern, Yaakov

In the possible/impossible object decision test, priming has consistently been found for structurally possible, but not impossible, objects, leading Schacter, Cooper, and Delaney (1990) to suggest that priming relies on a system that represents the global 3-D structure of objects. Using a modified design with matching objects to control for the influence of episodic memory, Ratcliff and McKoon (1995) and Williams and Tarr (1997) found negative priming for impossible objects (i.e., lower performance for old than for new items). Both teams argued that priming derives from (1) episodic memory for object features and (2) bias to respond "possible" to encoded objects or their possible parts. The present study applied the matched-objects design to the original Schacter and Cooper stimuli-same possible objects and matching impossible figures-with minimal procedural variation. The data from Experiment 1 only partially supported the bias models and suggested that priming was mediated by both local and global structural descriptions. Experiment 2 showed that negative priming for impossible objects derived from the structural properties of these objects, not from the influence of episodic memory on task performance. Supplemental materials for this study may be downloaded from


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Memory and Cognition

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February 22, 2018