Is visual short-term memory object based? Rejection of the "strong-object" hypothesis

Ingrid R. Olson, Yuhong Jiang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

196 Scopus citations


Is the capacity of visual short-term memory (VSTM) limited by the number of objects or by the number of features? VSTM for objects with either one feature or two color features was tested. Results show that capacity was limited primarily by the number of colors to be memorized, not by the number of objects. This result held up with variations in color saturation, blocked or mixed conditions, duration of memory image, and absence or presence of verbal load. However, conjoining features into objects improved VSTM capacity when size-orientation and color-orientation conjunctions were tested. Nevertheless, the number of features still mattered. When feature heterogeneity was controlled, VSTM for conjoined objects was worse than VSTM for objects made of single features. Our results support a weak-object hypothesis of VSTM capacity that suggests that VSTM is limited by both the number of objects and the feature composition of those objects. The authors thank Marvin Chun, Andrew Hollingsworth, Frank Keil, Martha Johnson, Steven Luck, and Mary Wheeler for helpful comments and discussions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1055-1067
Number of pages13
JournalPerception and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 2002


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