Remembering Thousands of images With High Fidelity

Oliva, Brady, Konkle & Alvarez

Although it is known that human long-term memory capacity for images is massive, the fidelity with which human memory can represent such a large number of images is an outstanding question. We conducted three large-scale memory experiments to determine the details remembered per image in both objects and natural scenes, by varying the amount of detail required to succeed in subsequent memory tests. Our results show that contrary to the commonly accepted view that long-term memory representations contain only the gist of what was seen, long-term memory can store thousands of items with a large amount of detail per item. Further analyses reveal that memory for an item depends on the extent to which it is conceptually distinct from other items in the memory set, sug- gesting that a “conceptual hook” is necessary for maintaining a large number of high-fidelity representations of objects and scenes in visual long-term memory.

Oliva, A., Brady, T. F., Konkle, T., Alvarez, G. A., (2009). Remembering thousands of images with high fidelity. Talk presented at the 50th annual meeting of the Psychonomic Society, November 19-21, Boston, MA.