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Visual long-term memory has a massive storage capacity for object details

Summary: Visual long-term memory has a massive storage
capacity for object details
Timothy F. Brady*, Talia Konkle, George A. Alvarez, and Aude Oliva*
Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA 02139
Edited by Dale Purves, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, NC, and approved August 1, 2008 (received for review April 8, 2008)
One of the major lessons of memory research has been that human
memory is fallible, imprecise, and subject to interference. Thus,
although observers can remember thousands of images, it is
widely assumed that these memories lack detail. Contrary to this
assumption, here we show that long-term memory is capable of
storing a massive number of objects with details from the image.
Participants viewed pictures of 2,500 objects over the course of
5.5 h. Afterward, they were shown pairs of images and indicated
which of the two they had seen. The previously viewed item could
be paired with either an object from a novel category, an object of
the same basic-level category, or the same object in a different
state or pose. Performance in each of these conditions was re-
markably high (92%, 88%, and 87%, respectively), suggesting that
participants successfully maintained detailed representations of
thousands of images. These results have implications for cognitive


Source: Alvarez, George A. - Department of Psychology, Harvard University
Edelman, Shimon - Departments of Computer Science & Psychology, Cornell University
Oliva, Aude - Department of Brain and Cognitive Science, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)


Collections: Biology and Medicine; Computer Technologies and Information Sciences