Large capacity storage of integrated objects before change blindness

Vision Res. 2003 Jan;43(2):149-64. doi: 10.1016/s0042-6989(02)00402-9.


Normal people have a strikingly low ability to detect changes in a visual scene. This has been taken as evidence that the brain represents only a few objects at a time, namely those currently in the focus of attention. In the present study, subjects were asked to detect changes in the orientation of rectangular figures in a textured display across a 1600 ms gray interval. In the first experiment, change detection improved when the location of a possible change was cued during the interval. The cue remained effective during the entire interval, but after the interval, it was ineffective, suggesting that an initially large representation was overwritten by the post-change display. To control for an effect of light intensity during the interval on the decay of the representation, we compared performance with a gray or a white interval screen in a second experiment. We found no difference between these conditions. In the third experiment, attention was occasionally misdirected during the interval by first cueing the wrong figure, before cueing the correct figure. This did not compromise performance compared to a single cue, indicating that when an item is attentionally selected, the representation of yet unchosen items remains available. In the fourth experiment, the cue was shown to be effective when changes in figure size and orientation were randomly mixed. At the time the cue appeared, subjects could not know whether size or orientation would change, therefore these results suggest that the representation contains features in their 'bound' state. Together, these findings indicate that change blindness involves overwriting of a large capacity representation by the post-change display.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Cues
  • Discrimination, Psychological
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Photic Stimulation / methods
  • Pilot Projects