Theses and Dissertations



Pratte, Michael S.

Committee Member

Moss, Jarrod

Committee Member

Jarosz, Andrew F.

Date of Degree


Original embargo terms

Visible MSU only 2 years

Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Campus Access Only



Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Psychology


In all past research, iconic memory shows a significant benefit over visual working memory for storage capacity of visual items. However, this effect has only been studied on simple items such as colors and letters. The goal of this thesis was to determine whether an iconic benefit also exists for visual stimuli with higher visual complexity, such as shapes and faces. Five experiments tested iconic and working memory capacity for complex face stimuli, intermediate-complexity shape stimuli, and simple color stimuli, as well as examining feature binding of objects in iconic memory. Results from these five experiments indicated that increased visual complexity of stimuli negatively impacts the iconic capacity benefit. High- and intermediate-complexity items had little to no iconic benefit, unlike all previously tested simple stimuli. Iconic memory may only be able to represent simple features, or may not be able to transfer complex information into visual working memory as quickly as simple information. Additionally, results showed that feature representations in iconic memory were sometimes bound into complex objects. The results of these five experiments challenge the traditional characterization of visual sensory memory as a precise snapshot; this early memory store may be more complex than a simple visual icon.