Look Over There! Unilateral Gaze Increases Geographical Memory of the 50 United States

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Based on their specialized processing abilities, the left and right hemispheres of the brain may not contribute equally to recall of general world knowledge. US college students recalled the verbal names and spatial locations of the 50 US states while sustaining leftward or rightward unilateral gaze, a procedure that selectively activates the contralateral hemisphere. Compared to a no-unilateral gaze control, right gaze/left hemisphere activation resulted in better recall, demonstrating left hemisphere superiority in recall of general world knowledge and offering equivocal support for the hemispheric encoding asymmetry model of memory. Unilateral gaze- regardless of direction- improved recall of spatial, but not verbal, information. Future research could investigate the conditions under which unilateral gaze increases recall. Sustained unilateral gaze can be used as a simple, inexpensive, means for testing theories of hemispheric specialization of cognitive functions. Results support an overall deficit in US geographical knowledge in undergraduate college students.



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