Attribute amnesia describes the failure to unexpectedly report the attribute of an attended stimulus, likely reflecting a lack of working memory consolidation. Previous studies have shown that unique meaningful objects are immune to attribute amnesia. However, these studies used highly dissimilar foils to test memory, raising the possibility that good performance at the surprise test was based on an imprecise (gist-like) form of long-term memory. In Experiment 1, we explored whether a more sensitive memory test would reveal attribute amnesia in meaningful objects. We used a four-alternative-forced-choice test with foils having mis-matched exemplar (e.g., apple pie/pumpkin pie) and/or state (e.g., cut/full) information. Errors indicated intact exemplar, but not state information. Thus, meaningful objects are vulnerable to attribute amnesia under the right conditions. In Experiments 2A-2D, we manipulated the familiarity signals of test items by introducing a critical object as a pre-surprise target. In the surprise trial, this critical item matched one of the foil choices. Participants selected the critical object more often than other items. By demonstrating that familiarity influences responses in this paradigm, we suggest that meaningful objects are not immune to attribute amnesia but instead side-step the effects of attribute amnesia.
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