The effects of rhythmic and arrhythmic eye movements on memory recall


Eye-Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), a therapy that treats many trauma-related disorders by requiring patients to perform rapid eye movements, has raised controversy because it lacks the support of a proven theoretical rationale. A recent theoretical explanation proposes that the eye movements reduce the vividness of the distressing images by disrupting the function of the visuospatial sketchpad (VSSP) of working memory, but support for this model has been weakened by methodological flaws that the current study attempted to overcome. The present study compared the effects of tracking rhythmic and arrhythmic stimuli on the recall of arousing television shock-ads. Eye-movement conditions did not significantly differ in terms of vividness, emotionality, or accuracy of memory as compared to the control condition. Arrhythmic targets increased the negative emotional response and decreased the vividness of the memories, but neither rhythmic nor arrhythmic target patterns produced responses that differed from the control condition. Heart rate recordings taken throughout the study did not suggest that arousal mediates the relationship between eye-movement patterns and vividness. The present study does not support the VSSP theory but provides valuable insights on the direction of future research.






Amy Marie Pastva

Original Work Citation

Pastva, A. M. (2008). The effects of rhythmic and arrhythmic eye movements on memory recall. The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA.



“The effects of rhythmic and arrhythmic eye movements on memory recall,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed January 29, 2022,

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