Implicit, Long-Term Spatial Contextual Memory

Marvin M. Chun, Yuhong Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

328 Scopus citations


Learning and memory of novel spatial configurations aids behaviors such as visual search through an implicit process called contextual cuing (M. M. Chun & Y. Jiang, 1998). The present study provides rigorous tests of the implicit nature of contextual cuing. Experiment 1 used a recognition test that closely matched the learning task, confirming that memory traces of predictive spatial context were not accessible to conscious retrieval. Experiment 2 gave explicit instructions to encode visual context during learning, but learning was not improved and conscious memory remained undetectable. Experiment 3 illustrates that memory traces for spatial context may persist for at least 1 week, suggesting a long-term component of contextual cuing. These experiments indicate that the learning and memory of spatial context in the contextual cuing task are indeed implicit. The results have implications for understanding the neural substrate of spatial contextual learning, which may depend on an intact medial temporal lobe system that includes the hippocampus (M. M. Chun & E. A. Phelps, 1999).

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)224-234
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2003


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