Selective memories: infants' encoding is enhanced in selection via suppression


Address for correspondence: Julie Markant, Brown University, 190 Thayer St., Box 1821, Providence, RI 02912, USA; e-mail:


The present study examined the hypothesis that inhibitory visual selection mechanisms play a vital role in memory by limiting distractor interference during item encoding. In Experiment 1a we used a modified spatial cueing task in which 9-month-old infants encoded multiple category exemplars in the contexts of an attention orienting mechanism involving suppression (i.e. inhibition of return, IOR) versus one that does not (i.e. facilitation). At test, infants in the IOR condition showed both item-specific learning and abstraction of broader category information. In contrast, infants in the facilitation condition did not discriminate across novel and familiar test items. Experiment 1b confirmed that the learning observed in the IOR condition was specific to spatial cueing of attention and was not due to timing differences across the IOR and facilitation conditions. In Experiment 2, we replicated the results of Experiment 1, using a within-subjects design to explicitly examine learning and memory encoding in the context of concurrent suppression. These data show that developing inhibitory selective attention enhances efficacy of memory encoding for subsequent retrieval. Furthermore, these results highlight the importance of considering interactions between developing attention and memory systems.