Large capacity temporary visual memory

Endress, A. & Potter, M. (2014). Large capacity temporary visual memory. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 143(2), pp. 548-565. doi: 10.1037/a0033934

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Abstract

Visual working memory (WM) capacity is thought to be limited to three or four items. However, many cognitive activities seem to require larger temporary memory stores. Here, we provide evidence for a temporary memory store with much larger capacity than past WM capacity estimates. Further, based on previous WM research, we show that a single factor|proactive interference|is su cient to bring capacity estimates down to the range of previousWM capacity estimates. Participants saw a rapid serial visual presentation (RSVP) of 5 to 21 pictures of familiar objects or words presented at rates of 4/s or 8/s, respectively, and thus too fast for strategies such as rehearsal. Recognition memory was tested with a single probe item. When new items were used on all trials, no xed memory capacities were observed, with estimates of up to 9.1 retained pictures for 21-item lists, and up to 30.0 retained pictures for 100-item lists, and no clear upper bound to how many items could be retained. Further, memory items were not stored in a temporally stable form of memory, but decayed almost completely after a few minutes. In contrast, when, as in most WM experiments, a small set of items was reused across all trials, thus creating proactive interference among items, capacity remained in the range reported in previous WM experiments. These results show that humans have a large-capacity temporary memory store in the absence of proactive interference, and raise the question of whether temporary memory in everyday cognitive processing is severely limited as in WM experiments, or has the much larger capacity found in the present experiments.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: This article may not exactly replicate the final version published in the APA journal. It is not the copy of record.
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Divisions: School of Social Sciences > Department of Psychology
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/3765

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