Real-World Objects Are Not Represented as Bound Units:
Independent Forgetting of Different Object Details From Visual Memory

Brady, Konkle, Alvarez, & Oliva

Are real-world objects represented as bound units? Although a great deal of research has examined binding between the feature dimensions of simple shapes, little work has examined whether the featural properties of real-world objects are stored in a single unitary object representation. In a first experiment, we found that information about an objectÕs color is forgotten more rapidly than the information about an objectÕs state (e.g., open, closed), suggesting that observers do not forget objects as entirely bound units. In a second and third experiment, we examined whether state and exemplar information are forgotten separately or together. If these properties are forgotten separately, the probability of getting one feature correct should be independent of whether the other feature was correct. We found that after a short delay, observers frequently remember both state and exemplar information about the same objects, but after a longer delay, memory for the two properties becomes independent. This indicates that information about object state and exemplar are forgotten separately over time. We thus conclude that real-world objects are not represented in a single unitary representation in visual memory.

Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Alvarez, G. A., & Oliva, A. (2013). Real-world objects are not represented as bound units: Independent forgetting of different object details from visual memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 142(3), 791-808.