Short-term visual memory for location in depth: A U-shaped function of time

Adam Reeves, Quan Lei

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Short-term visual memory was studied by displaying arrays of four or five numerals, each numeral in its own depth plane, followed after various delays by an arrow cue shown in one of the depth planes. Subjects reported the numeral at the depth cued by the arrow. Accuracy fell with increasing cue delay for the first 500 ms or so, and then recovered almost fully. This dipping pattern contrasts with the usual iconic decay observed for memory traces. The dip occurred with or without a verbal or color–shape retention load on working memory. In contrast, accuracy did not change with delay when a tonal cue replaced the arrow cue. We hypothesized that information concerning the depths of the numerals decays over time in sensory memory, but that cued recall is aided later on by transfer to a visual memory specialized for depth. This transfer is sufficiently rapid with a tonal cue to compensate for the sensory decay, but it is slowed by the need to tag the arrow cue’s depth relative to the depths of the numerals, exposing a dip when sensation has decayed and transfer is not yet complete. A model with a fixed rate of sensory decay and varied transfer rates across individuals captures the dip as well as the cue modality effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1917-1932
Number of pages16
JournalAttention, Perception, and Psychophysics
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2017


  • Binocular vision
  • Short-term memory
  • Stereopsis
  • Visual working memory

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