Visual short-term memory is not improved by training

Mem Cognit. 2004 Dec;32(8):1326-32. doi: 10.3758/bf03206323.


A critical question in visual working or short-term memory (VSTM) research is whether the ability to remember briefly presented visual stimuli can be increased. Here we test whether VSTM for locations and shapes is improved by training that allows one to utilize another memory system, visual longterm memory (VLTM). Training was done by repeatedly presenting a subset of memory displays, creating long-term memory traces for these displays. Surprisingly, VSTM performance for repeated displays was not higher than for nonrepeated ones, even though participants recognized repeated displays on a forced-choice test given at the end of the experiment. We suggest that the fidelity of information held by VLTM is inferior to that of information held by VSTM and thus provides no additional benefit over what is extracted on the fly by VSTM.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term*
  • Recognition, Psychology
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Visual Perception*