Symmetry brings an impression of familiarity but does not improve recognition memory.

TitleSymmetry brings an impression of familiarity but does not improve recognition memory.
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsBrodeur MB, Chauret M, Dion-Lessard G, Lepage M
JournalActa Psychol (Amst)
Date Published2011 Jul

Studies have shown that symmetric stimuli are recognized better than asymmetric stimuli but evidence suggests that this advantage may result from a familiarity bias induced by symmetry. We used a classic episodic memory paradigm to test this bias and see if it truly accounts for the symmetry advantage. Subjects first encoded symmetric and asymmetric figures. During a subsequent recognition phase, they discriminated the encoded (old) figures from new intermixed figures. The recognition rate of old figures was higher with symmetric figures than asymmetric figures. However, the tendency to falsely recognize new figures was also higher when they were symmetric, meaning that the higher recognition rate for symmetric figures was artificially inflated by a response bias. Three other experiments further tested this finding and examined the influence of some variables (rotation in virtual 3D space, stimulus meaningfulness, and redundancy of information) on the bias. A fifth experiment with photo stimuli confirmed that the response bias also applies to objects that we regularly encounter in everyday life. In conclusion, our results show that symmetry does not enhance mnemonic processes but instead induces a response bias leading individuals to judge such stimuli as having been seen.

Alternate JournalActa Psychol (Amst)
PubMed ID21549335