Forgetting what was where: the fragility of object-location binding.
Pertzov Y., Dong MY., Peich M-C., Husain M.
Although we frequently take advantage of memory for objects locations in everyday life, understanding how an object's identity is bound correctly to its location remains unclear. Here we examine how information about object identity, location and crucially object-location associations are differentially susceptible to forgetting, over variable retention intervals and memory load. In our task, participants relocated objects to their remembered locations using a touchscreen. When participants mislocalized objects, their reports were clustered around the locations of other objects in the array, rather than occurring randomly. These 'swap' errors could not be attributed to simple failure to remember either the identity or location of the objects, but rather appeared to arise from failure to bind object identity and location in memory. Moreover, such binding failures significantly contributed to decline in localization performance over retention time. We conclude that when objects are forgotten they do not disappear completely from memory, but rather it is the links between identity and location that are prone to be broken over time.