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Capacity and duration of iconic memory from partial reporting of brief stimuli: A replication of Sperling’s experiment (1960)

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Doi: 10.20982/tqmp.19.3.r011

Bradley-Garcia, Meenakshie , Ben Messaoud, Salma , Bossilkov, Ashley , Cateaux, Chloé , Tshila N’Sa, Carmel , Potvin-Pilon, Annabelle , Abdi-Nassir, Hajira , Assad, Nardeen , Balcom, Fiona , Belfaiz, Salma , Blackburn, Cassandra , Bolduc, Julia , Boutarbouch, Idriss , Béchamp, Natasha , Calderon Robles, Mireyva Tatiane , Charbonneau, Véronique , Chatillon, Isabelle , Cooper-Ballinger, Lauren , Falconi, Maria , Francoeur, Vincent , Gashema, Asterie , Healey, Victoria , Johnston, Victoria , Lafleur, Cloé , Laliberté, Josiane , Lareau, Jadzia , Leblanc, Camille , Miess, Erin , Méthot, Victoria , Najjar, Habib , Palanee, Jamila , Pradelle, Suzanne , Ramphul, Deevesh Raj , Sarrazin, Mahika , Savage, Nich , Tremblay Jimenez, Monica
Keywords: Iconic memory , sensory memory , memory , Sperling , replication , online study
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It has been widely accepted that iconic memory has a capacity of minimally 9 elements and a duration of approximately 0.3 seconds. However, Sperling’s (1960) partial report methodology influenced the study of iconic memory by demonstrating its larger capacity than previously considered. Due to the limited number of participants in the original study, a replication study was necessary to corroborate the results of Sperling (1960) to validate the scientific merit of results, thereby strengthening the validity of the study. The present study aimed to replicate Sperling’s (1960) partial report experiment with modern technology amongst a larger and demographically heterogeneous sample. Male and female participants (n = 64) aged 18-59 years old (M = 30.61, SD = 13.211) were recruited to complete four online tasks via Qualtrics. Tasks 1 and 4 involved the recall of briefly presented sequences of 3, 4, 5, and 6 letters. Tasks 2 and 3 required participants to recall an array of 3 and 4 letters and numbers presented in 2 and 3 rows respectively. In Tasks 2 and 3, an auditory cue was presented for 0.05 s at two (high and low) and three different frequencies (high, medium, low), respectively, which indicated the row to be reported at different interstimulus intervals (-0.10, 0.0, 0.15, 0.30, 0.50, 1.0 s) relative to the presented stimuli. Analyses revealed that the interaction between the number of letters and the interstimulus interval, the number of rows and the interstimulus interval, as well as the number of letters and number of rows was statistically significant. The findings of this replication study support the results of Sperling (1960) suggesting that partial report accuracy is influenced by the number of briefly presented characters. Future studies should explore the influence of a controlled environment to explain the effects of the variables on recall abilities.

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