Precision of Memory for Attended and Ignored Colors

Victoria Halewicz, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Selective attention can enhance some aspects of our visual world while filtering others from awareness. Given our limited cognitive resources, such filtering is essential when viewing complex scenes, but it also applies to simple scenes. Eitam, Yeshurun, and Hassan (2013) observed better performance for the attended color than the ignored color in a simple, two-colored object even though both colors were salient and the complexity of the display did not tax the capacity of visual memory. Our goal was to replicate this finding while addressing a potential task demand that could have contributed to the results. Specifically, participants might have misread the instructions and mistakenly reported the attended color when asked to report the ignored color first. Experiment 1 (n=67) replicated Eitam et al.'s (2013) finding while measuring memory precision. We found that people had worse memory for the ignored than the attended feature of a single, simple object. Experiment 2 (n=69) replicated the pattern while again addressing the potential task demand, although the effect was smaller. Experiment 3 (n=186) provided visual feedback to eliminate any remaining risk of response error and again replicated the original finding. Attended information was stored with greater precision than unattended information, even for a simple object.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number87484
JournalCollabra: Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 6 2023


  • attention
  • attention set
  • color
  • perception
  • visual memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Psychology


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