A bias to detail: how hand position modulates visual learning and visual memory


  • Davoli Christopher C.
  • Brockmole James R.
  • Goujon Annabelle

document type



In this report, we examine whether and how altered aspects of perception and attention near the hands affect one's learning of to-be-remembered visual material. We employed the contextual cuing paradigm of visual learning in two experiments. Participants searched for a target embedded within images of fractals and other complex geometrical patterns while either holding their hands near to or far from the stimuli. When visual features and structural patterns remained constant across to-be-learned images (Exp. 1), no difference emerged between hand postures in the observed rates of learning. However, when to-be-learned scenes maintained structural pattern information but changed in color (Exp. 2), participants exhibited substantially slower rates of learning when holding their hands near the material. This finding shows that learning near the hands is impaired in situations in which common information must be abstracted from visually unique images, suggesting a bias toward detail-oriented processing near the hands.

more information