Visual Memory Decay Is Deterministic
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After observers see an object or pattern, their visual memory of what they have seen decays slowly over time. Nearly all current theories of vision assume that decay of short-term memory occurs because visual representations are progressively and randomly corrupted as time passes. We tested this assumption using psychophysical noise-masking methods, and we found that visual memory decays in a completely deterministic fashion. This surprising finding challenges current ideas about visual memory and sets a goal for future memory research: to characterize the deterministic "forgetting function" that describes how memories decay over time.
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