Estimation in self-initiated working memory for spatial locations

Hagit Magen*, Tatiana Aloi Emmanouil

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The short-term maintenance of precise location information is fundamental in many daily activities. Often, individuals memorize spatial information provided to them, but in many other occasions memory is self-initiated, meaning that individuals memorize locations they selected themselves. While prevalent in everyday behavior, research on self-initiated working memory (WM) is scarce. The current study employed a modified spatial precision memory task in which participants temporarily memorized single locations they themselves selected within a square area that appeared during encoding. We explored the distribution of locations participants selected, guided by the assumption that participants would select locations that they perceived would maximize accuracy. The results of two experiments demonstrated that, to enhance memory performance, participants most often selected prototypical locations within the square area, namely, at its center and at its corners, which were closest to the center and the corners of the entire screen. When asked to disrupt memory performance, participants mostly avoided these locations. Furthermore, memory accuracy for self-initiated locations was superior to memory for provided locations, even when the distribution of locations in the two conditions was matched. We interpret the results within the framework of models that emphasize the utility of spatial categories in maximizing memory accuracy in spatial-estimation tasks. The results provide the first illustration of self-initiated representations in spatial precision WM tasks, suggesting that participants have access to metacognitive knowledge about the usefulness of spatial categories in location memory. Moreover, the results demonstrate that spatial precision is enhanced when participants reproduce locations they selected themselves.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)315-324
Number of pages10
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 Feb 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, Psychonomic Society, Inc.


  • Memory biases
  • Self-initiation
  • Spatial memory
  • Visual working memory


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