Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Williams, Carrick C.

Committee Member

Bradshaw, Gary L.

Committee Member

Strawderman, Lesley

Committee Member

Eakin, Deborah K.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Cognitive Science

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


Research into the nature and content of visual long-term memory has investigated what aspects of its representation may account for the remarkable ability we have to remember large amounts of detailed visual information. One theory proposed is that visual memories are supported by an underlying structure of conceptual knowledge around which visual information is organized. However, findings in memory for visual information learned in a visual search task were not explained by this theory of conceptual support, and a new theory is proposed that incorporates the importance of episodic, task-relevant visual information into the organizational structure of visual memory. The current study examined visual long-term memory organization as evidenced by retroactive interference effects in memory for objects learned in a visual search. Four experiments were conducted to examine the amount of retroactive interference induced based on aspects in which interfering objects were related to learned objects. Specifically, episodically task-relevant information about objects was manipulated between conditions based on search instructions. Aspects of conceptual category, perceptual information (color), and context (object role in search) were examined for their contribution to retroactive interference for learned objects. Findings indicated that when made episodically task-relevant, perceptual, as well as conceptual, information contributed to the organization of visual long-term memory. However, when made episodically non-relevant, perceptual information did not contribute to memory organization, and memory defaulted to conceptual category organization. This finding supports the theory of an episodically defined organizational structure in visual long-term memory that is overlaid upon an underlying conceptual structure.