Memory, Aging and the Brain: A Festschrift in Honour of Lars-Göran Nilsson

By Lars Bäckman; Lars Nyberg | Go to book overview

4
Visual perceptual
memory – anno 2008

Svein Magnussen, Mark W. Greenlee, Oliver Baumann, and Tor Endestad


Introduction

The concept of perceptual memory refers to the neural and cognitive processes underlying the storage of sensory information along such basic stimulus dimensions as spatial frequency, orientation, and motion (Magnussen, 2000; Magnussen & Greenlee, 1999). The concept is related to, but not identical with, the concept of visual working memory (Baddeley, 2003). In perceptual memory experiments, memory is assessed in terms of the precision by which stimulus information is retained in memory, rather than in terms of the number of visual items or categories that can be retained; with a research strategy, that is closer to the correspondence metaphor of memory than it is to the storehouse metaphor (Koriat, Goldsmith, & Pansky, 2000).

Research on visual perceptual memory has a long scientific history, beginning with a paper by Fredrich Hegelmaier in 1852 on the memory for line length, in which he, prior to Fechner (1860), introduced the psychophysical method of constant stimuli and published the first experimental data on perceptual memory (Laming & Laming, 1992). Hegelmaier’s paper was quickly forgotten – if indeed ever noticed – and the study of memory took a different course, largely owing to the impact of another German scientist, Herman Ebbinghaus. However, the study of perceptual memory survived in psychophysics (Laming & Scheiwiller, 1985) and was revived two decades ago, when it grew out of research on the mechanisms of visual processing (Magnussen, Greenlee, Asplund, & Dyrnes, 1990; Regan, 1985), a context in which it has remained, separated from mainstream memory research. The programme of modern perceptual memory research as formulated by Magnussen et al. (1990) has aimed to bridge the gap between perception and memory, noting that even if the simplest perceptual process involves the linking of online sensory signals with stored representations, perception and memory research progressed along parallel, isolated paths. Traditional research on visual memory employed alphanumeric stimuli or pictures of meaningful scenes that invited higher level categorical coding; thus, little could be concluded from these experiments regarding the perceptual component of visual memory. The strategy chosen by perceptual memory

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