Scene memory is more detailed than you think: the role of categories in visual long-term memory
Observers can store thousands of object images in visual long-term memory with high fidelity, but the fidelity of scene representations in long-term memory is not known. Here we probed this fidelity by varying the number of studied exemplars in each scene category and testing memory using exemplar-level foils. Observers viewed thousands of scenes over 5.5 hours, and were tested with a series of forced-choice tests. Memory performance was high, even with up to 64 scenes from the same category in memory. Moreover, there was only a 2% decrease in accuracy for each doubling of the number of studied scene exemplars. Surprisingly, this degree of categorical interference was similar to that previously demonstrated in object memory. Thus, while scenes have often been defined as a superset of objects, our results suggest that scenes and objects may be best treated as entities at a similar level of abstraction in visual long-term memory.