Attentional limits on the perception and memory of visual information

J Exp Psychol Hum Percept Perform. 1990 May;16(2):332-50. doi: 10.1037//0096-1523.16.2.332.


Attentional limits on perception and memory were measured by the decline in performance with increasing numbers of objects in a display. Multiple objects were presented to Ss who discriminated visual attributes. In a representative condition, 4 lines were briefly presented followed by a single line in 1 of the same locations. Ss were required to judge if the single line in the 2nd display was longer or shorter than the line in the corresponding location of the 1st display. The length difference threshold was calculated as a function of the number of objects. The difference thresholds doubled when the number of objects was increased from 1 to 4. This effect was generalized in several ways, and nonattentional explanations were ruled out. Further analyses showed that the attentional processes must share information from at least 4 objects and can be described by a simple model.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attention*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Eye Movements
  • Form Perception*
  • Generalization, Stimulus
  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall*
  • Orientation
  • Pattern Recognition, Visual*
  • Retention, Psychology
  • Sensory Thresholds
  • Size Perception