Visual memory and the perception of a stable visual environment

David E. Irwin, James L. Zacks, Joseph S. Brown

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The visual world appears stable and continuous despite eye movementa. One hypothesisabout how this perception is achieved is that the contents of succesaivatienn~arefusedinmemory according to environmental coordinates. Two experiments failed to support this hypothesis; they showed that one's ability to detecta grating presented after a saccade is unaffected by the presentation of a grating with the same spatial frequency in the same spatial location before the saccade. A third experiment tested an alternative explanation of perceptual stability that claims that the contents of successive fixations are compared, rather than fused, across-saccades, allowing one to determine whether the world has remained stable. This hypothesis was supported: Experienced subjects could accurately determine whether two patterns viewed in successive fixationswere identical or different, evenwhenthe two patterns appeared in different spatial positions across the saccade. Taken together, these results suggest that perceptual stability and information integration across saccades rely on memory for the relative positions of objects in the environment, rather than on the spatiotopic fusion of visual information from successive fixations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)35-46
Number of pages12
JournalPerception & Psychophysics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1990
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems
  • Psychology(all)


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