Iconic memory: A reply to Professor Holding

Max Coltheart*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)


Professor Holding has argued that the partial report superiority normally taken as evidence for the existence of iconic memory might instead be due to cue anticipation or output interference. I have suggested that both of these alternative explanations are inconsistent with the finding that the partial report superiority diminishes rapidly with increasing cue delay. In addition, Sperling's original partial report experiment was designed in such a way that cue anticipation could not have occurred; and both his results with selection by letter vs number and Averbach and Coriell's bar-marker results indicate that output interference effects are absent or negligible in tachistoscopic experiments. Consequently, I have concluded that the partial report superiority, and especially its decline with increasing delay, remains as strong evidence in favor of the conventional view of iconic memory. Furthermore, if this view were wrong, there would remain no way of giving a satisfactory account of (a) Averbach and Coriell's results, (b) "direct" investigations of visual persistence, or (c) integration and interruption effects in backward visual masking.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)42-48
Number of pages7
JournalMemory & Cognition
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1975
Externally publishedYes


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