Research on episodic memory has established that spontaneous eye movements occur to spaces associated with retrieved information even if those spaces are blank at the time of retrieval. Although it has been claimed that such looks to “nothing” can function as facilitatory retrieval cues, there is currently no conclusive evidence for such an effect. In the present study, we addressed this fundamental issue using four direct eye manipulations in the retrieval phase of an episodic memory task: (a) free viewing on a blank screen, (b) maintaining central fixation, (c) looking inside a square congruent with the location of the to-be-recalled objects, and (d) looking inside a square incongruent with the location of the to-be-recalled objects. Our results provide novel evidence of an active and facilitatory role of gaze position during memory retrieval and demonstrate that memory for the spatial relationship between objects is more readily affected than memory for intrinsic object features.

Johansson, R. & Johansson, M. (2013). Look here, eye movements play a functional role in memory retrieval. Psychological Science. doi:10.1177/0956797613498260