Conceptual distinctiveness supports detailed visual long-term memory for real-world objects
Humans have a massive capacity to store detailed information in visual long-term memory. The present studies explored the fidelity of these visual long-term memory representations, and examined how conceptual and perceptual features of object categories support this capacity. Observers viewed 2800 object images with a different number of exemplars presented from each category. At test, observers indicated which of two exemplars they had previously studied. Memory performance was high and remained quite high (82% accuracy) with 16 exemplars from a category in memory, demonstrating a large memory capacity for object exemplars. However, memory performance decreased as more exemplars were held in memory, implying systematic categorical interference. Object categories with conceptually distinctive exemplars showed less interference in memory as the number of exemplars increased. Interference in memory was not predicted by the perceptual distinctiveness of exemplars from an object category, though these perceptual measures predicted visual search rates for an object target among exemplars. These data provide evidence that observersí capacity to remember visual information in long-term memory depends more on conceptual structure than perceptual distinctiveness.