A Visual Short-Term Memory Advantage for Objects of Expertise

Kim M. Curby*, Kuba Glazek, Isabel Gauthier

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

112 Citations (Scopus)


Visual short-term memory (VSTM) is limited, especially for complex objects. Its capacity, however, is greater for faces than for other objects; this advantage may stem from the holistic nature of face processing. If the holistic processing explains this advantage, object expertise-which also relies on holistic processing-should endow experts with a VSTM advantage. The authors compared VSTM for cars among car experts and car novices. Car experts, but not car novices, demonstrated a VSTM advantage similar to that for faces; this advantage was orientation specific and was correlated with an individual's level of car expertise. Control experiments ruled out accounts based solely on verbal- or long-term memory representations. These findings suggest that the processing advantages afforded by visual expertise result in domain-specific increases in VSTM capacity, perhaps by allowing experts to maximize the use of an inherently limited VSTM system.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)94-107
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2009
Externally publishedYes

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