Reconciling change blindness with long-term memory for objects

Katherine Wood, Daniel J. Simons

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


How can we reconcile remarkably precise long-term memory for thousands of images with failures to detect changes to similar images? We explored whether people can use detailed, long-term memory to improve change detection performance. Subjects studied a set of images of objects and then performed recognition and change detection tasks with those images. Recognition memory performance exceeded change detection performance, even when a single familiar object in the postchange display consistently indicated the change location. In fact, participants were no better when a familiar object predicted the change location than when the displays consisted of unfamiliar objects. When given an explicit strategy to search for a familiar object as a way to improve performance on the change detection task, they performed no better than in a 6-alternative recognition memory task. Subjects only benefited from the presence of familiar objects in the change detection task when they had more time to view the prechange array before it switched. Once the cost to using the change detection information decreased, subjects made use of it in conjunction with memory to boost performance on the familiar-item change detection task. This suggests that even useful information will go unused if it is sufficiently difficult to extract.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)438-448
Number of pages11
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • Change blindness
  • Memory: Long-term memory
  • Object Recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Sensory Systems
  • Linguistics and Language


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