The lower bounds of massive memory: Investigating memory for object details after incidental encoding.
Draschkow D., Reinecke S., Cunningham CA., Võ ML-H.
Visual long-term memory capacity appears massive and detailed when probed explicitly. In the real world, however, memories are usually built from chance encounters. Therefore, we investigated the capacity and detail of incidental memory in a novel encoding task, instructing participants to detect visually distorted objects among intact objects. In a subsequent surprise recognition memory test, lures of a novel category, another exemplar, the same object in a different state, or exactly the same object were presented. Lure recognition performance was above chance, suggesting that incidental encoding resulted in reliable memory formation. Critically, performance for state lures was worse than for exemplars, which was driven by a greater similarity of state as opposed to exemplar foils to the original objects. Our results indicate that incidentally generated visual long-term memory representations of isolated objects are more limited in detail than recently suggested.