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The efficiency of encoding: limits of information transfer into memory

The efficiency of encoding: limits of information transfer into memory

Huebner, Gesche M. and Gegenfurtner, Karl R. (2011) The efficiency of encoding: limits of information transfer into memory. Attention, Perception & Psychophysics, 73 (5). pp. 1503-1521. ISSN 1943-3921 (Print), 1943-393X (Online) (doi:

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We investigated how visual information is best presented to maximize the number of remembered items in a fixed time unit. In a memory task for images depicting real-world objects, we varied the number of images shown simultaneously, the presentation time, and the interstimulus interval (ISI). The viewing phase was followed by a two-alternative forced choice recognition task. We converted the percentage of correct answers into a capacity estimate scaled to a fixed time unit of 1 s to allow for comparisons across conditions. Our results showed that (1) presenting one image very briefly was always more efficient than simultaneously showing multiple images for longer periods; (2) for single images, the maximum encoding rate was fairly constant over a wide range of conditions, at 1.4 objects per second; (3) when testing was done a week later, memory capacity was the same for all conditions, irrespective of the presentation time and ISI at the initial viewing; (4) highly similar distractors led to worse performance than random distractors; and (5) showing an image twice for 100 ms was associated with worse performance than showing the image once, but for 200 ms.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: efficiency, memory, natural objects, presentation time, interstimulus interval, capacity
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Liberal Arts & Sciences
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Last Modified: 14 Oct 2016 09:17

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