Memory

Reading Joshua Foer’s memory book. Amazing results from a couple of studies where human visual memory is measured.

We all knew that one, too. In fact, he went through thirty slides, and everyone in the room recognized every single one of the photos we’d seen before. “Now here’s the fascinating thing,” said Ed, pacing professorially at the front of the linoleum-tiled auditorium. “We could have done this with ten thousand slides, and you would have performed almost equally well. Your memory for images is that good.” He was referring to a frequently cited set of experiments carried out in the 1970s using the exact same picture recognition test that we’d just taken, only instead of thirty images, the researchers asked their subjects to remember ten thousand. (It took five days to perform the test.) That’s a lot of pictures for a mind to keep track of, especially since the subjects were only able to look at each image once. Even so, the scientists found that people were able to recognize more than 80 percent of what they’d seen. In a more recent study, the same test was performed with 2,500 images, but instead of asking people to choose between an image of Muhammad Ali and an Alka-Seltzer tablet (an easy choice, no matter how effervescent Cassius Clay might have been), they had to choose between alternative images that were almost identical: a stack of five dollar bills versus a stack of one dollar bills, a green train car versus a red train car, a bell with a narrow handle versus a bell with a wide handle. Even when the images differed only in a tiny detail, people still remembered 90 percent of them correctly.

Foer, Joshua (2011-03-03). Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything (pp. 26-27). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

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Memory

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