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Visual memory

Visual memory is a part of memory preserving some characteristics of our senses pertaining to visual experience. We are able to place in memory information that resembles objects, places, animals or people in sort of a mental image. Some authors refer to this experience as an “our mind's eye” through which we can retrieve from our memory a mental image of the original object, place, animal or person.

The first scientist to give serious consideration to visual imagery was Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) in the field of individual differences. In his research Galton asked his subjects to describe and rate their visual images on vividness. He was able to demonstrate a wide range of clarity, ranging from vivid mental images to none among his test subjects (Galton, 1883).

Since this way of judging mental image has very little scientific objectivity, psychologists devised more objective ways of evaluating mental images, based on how much information can be retrieved from them. Overall, there are not conclusive data that would support any benefits from visual mnemonics (Baddeley, 1976).

Additional recommended knowledge


Eidetic imagery

Eidetic imagery is perhaps the only kind that produces any actual visual memory that can be looked at similarly as if at looking the actual picture. Lake, Haber and Haber produced a study in which they presented a subject with an image for 30 seconds. After removing the image the subjects ware asked whether they could see anything. In a study of elementary school children they presented them with an illustration of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. After removing it some children were describing with a vivid accuracy the image they have seen. (Haber, 1969)

Eidetic imagery seems to have more effect on children since the adult subjects did not describe similar experience. Koslyn assigns this difference to the lack of verbal and conceptual systems in children, when comparing to adult (Koslyn, 1980, 1984).

There are two kinds of memory related to eidetic imagery: photographic memory and iconic memory.

Photographic memory

There is also no supportive evidence for photographic memory. This phenomenon is usually displayed by some individuals' exceptional skills in mental organization.

Iconic memory

See Iconic memory.

Spatial memory

Spatial memory can be considered a subcategory of visual memory because it relies on a cognitive map


  • Gleitman, H.(1991)Psychology, 7, 275-278.


  • This page was originally created for WikEd, a service to the education community by the CTER program in the Department of Educational Psychology, College of Education, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
  • Original document
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Visual_memory". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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