J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 2022 Aug 18. doi: 10.1037/xhp0001045. Online ahead of print.
Visual scenes are often remembered as if they were observed from a different viewpoint. Some scenes are remembered as farther than they appeared, and others as closer. These memory distortions-also known as boundary extension and contraction-are strikingly consistent for a given scene, but their cause remains unknown. We tested whether these distortions can be explained by an inferential process that adjusts scene memories toward high-probability views, using viewing depth as a test case. We first carried out a large-scale analysis of depth maps of natural indoor scenes to quantify the statistical probability of views in depth. We then assessed human observers’ memory for these scenes at various depths and found that viewpoint judgments were consistently biased toward the modal depth, even when just a few seconds elapsed between viewing and reporting. Thus, scenes closer than the modal depth showed a boundary-extension bias (remembered as farther-away), and scenes farther than the modal depth showed a boundary-contraction bias (remembered as closer). By contrast, scenes at the modal depth did not elicit a consistent bias in either direction. This same pattern of results was observed in a follow-up experiment using tightly controlled stimuli from virtual environments. Together, these findings show that scene memories are biased toward statistically probable views, which may serve to increase the accuracy of noisy or incomplete scene representations. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2022 APA, all rights reserved).