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Open Mind

2018, Vol. 2, No. 1, Pages 14-25
(doi: 10.1162/opmi_a_00014)
© 2017 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Published under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license
Detailed Visual Memory Capacity Is Present Early in Childhood
Article PDF (3.98 MB)

Previous studies have shown that adults are able to remember more than 1,000 images with great detail. However, little is known about the development of this visual capacity, nor its presence early in life. This study tests the level of detail of young children’s memory for a large number of items, adapting the method of Brady, Konkle, Alvarez, and Oliva (2008). Four- and six-year-old children were shown more than 100 images of everyday objects. They were then tested for recognition of familiar items in a binary decision task. The identity of the foil test item was manipulated in three conditions (Category, Exemplar, and State). Children demonstrated high accuracy across all conditions, remembering not only the basic-level category (Category), but also unique details (Exemplar), and information about position and arrangement of parts (State). These findings demonstrate that children spontaneously encode a high degree of visual detail. Early in life, visual memory exhibits high fidelity and extends over a large set of items.