Visual memory for shape-colour conjunctions utilizes structural descriptions of letter shape
Visual recognition memory for shape-colour associations is superior when the colours were originally perceived to belong to the shapes, rather than to the backgrounds against which the shapes appeared. Recognition is at chance in the latter case. In two experiments, the nature of the shape representations supporting visual memory for shape-colour conjunctions is examined. Letters are used as to-be-remembered shapes and the impact of two types of change in their appearance as recognition probes is assessed. When letters reappear in the same case, recognition performance is unaffected by a change in font (Experiment 1). However, when letters reappear in the same font, recognition performance drops to chance if letter case is changed (Experiment 2). The contrast between these two types of change was not confounded with differences in the visual similarity of the memory and probe letters. It seems that colour is linked to structural descriptions of letter shape in visual memory. The relationship between these descriptions and other forms of representation, including abstract representations of letter identity, is discussed.
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