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Michael Compton, Jacqueline Snow; Real-world objects are recalled better than photographs of objects. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):538. doi: 10.1167/15.12.538.
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Research studies of human memory have largely relied on two-dimensional images as substitutes for real-world exemplars. Real objects, however, differ from images in a number of important respects: they exist in three-dimensional space, have a definite size, distance, and location from the observer, and offer the potential for grasping and interaction. Moreover, neuroimaging evidence suggests that real objects may be encoded and/or represented differently to their pictorial counterparts. In a series of recent experiments we reported that memory performance was enhanced for real objects versus matched pictures and line-drawings of the same items. The memory advantage for real objects was replicated across two experiments in the context of a between-subjects design. Here, we examine whether the mnemonic advantage for real objects over pictures can be observed within individual observers. Thirty-three undergraduate students were asked to freely recall, and then to recognize forty-two common household objects. Critically, half of the objects were presented as real-world exemplars and the remainder as high-resolution color photographs. We varied the objects that were assigned to each viewing condition from observer to observer and the order of trials in each condition was varied randomly throughout the study phase. Stimulus viewing time was controlled using PLATO LCD spectacles and the stimuli in each viewing condition were closely matched in terms of visual size, lighting conditions, and viewing distance. In the free recall task, memory performance was significantly better for objects that were viewed as real exemplars than photographs. There were no significant differences in recognition performance between the two viewing conditions. These data confirm that real-world are more memorable to individual observers than pictorial representations of objects. Our data shed further light on the important but largely overlooked question as to whether images are appropriate proxies for real objects in psychology and neuroscience.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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