Recognition Memory for Briefly Presented Pictures: The Time Course of Rapid Forgetting

Mary C. Potter, Adrian Staub, Janina Rado, Daniel H O'Connor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


When viewing a rapid sequence of pictures, observers momentarily understand the gist of each scene but have poor recognition memory for most of them (M. C. Potter, 1976). Is forgetting immediate, or does some information persist briefly? Sequences of 5 scenes were presented for 173 ms/picture: when yes-no testing began immediately, recognition was initially high but declined markedly during the 10-item test. With testing delays of 2 or 6 s, the decline over testing was less steep. When 10 or 20 pictures were presented, there was again a marked initial decline during testing. A 2-alternative forced-choice recognition test produced similar results. Both the passage of time and test interference (but not presentation interference) led to forgetting. The brief persistence of information may assist in building a coherent representation over several fixations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1175
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology


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