Change blindness and visual memory: visual representations get rich and act poor

D Alexander Varakin, Daniel T Levin
British Journal of Psychology 2006, 97 (Pt 1): 51-77
Change blindness is often taken as evidence that visual representations are impoverished, while successful recognition of specific objects is taken as evidence that they are richly detailed. In the current experiments, participants performed cover tasks that required each object in a display to be attended. Change detection trials were unexpectedly introduced and surprise recognition tests were given for nonchanging displays. For both change detection and recognition, participants had to distinguish objects from the same basic-level category, making it likely that specific visual information had to be used for successful performance. Although recognition was above chance, incidental change detection usually remained at floor. These results help reconcile demonstrations of poor change detection with demonstrations of good memory because they suggest that the capability to store visual information in memory is not reflected by the visual system's tendency to utilize these representations for purposes of detecting unexpected changes.

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