Research by Hui Chen (post-doctoral fellow) and Garrett Swan (graduate student) regarding the role of expectation on memory formation was recently featured in Penn State News.
A theory that links memory encoding to expectations of future relevance may better explain how human memory works, according to a team of Penn State psychologists.
Modern psychology posits two major theories to explain the mechanisms of how memories are formed. The first is object-based encoding, storing all information about an object in working memory. The second is feature-based encoding, selectively remembering aspects of an object. For example, if you watch a group of people playing basketball, under object-based encoding theory, the brain remembers all aspects of the ball. In feature-based encoding, the brain remembers that it saw a ball, but may have no recollection of the color if the color of the ball is an unnecessary feature according to the task at hand.
The proposed theory, expectancy-based binding, suggests that subjects can remember features presented in a visual scene or movie without necessarily remembering which object went with which feature when it is not necessary to do so.