Iconic memory is a component of visual memory, which is itself a sensory memory. Its role is to organize the visual information in such a way to facilitate their processing. In other words, it allows us to see things better.

The presentation of visual stimuli is the first thing that must happen. The visual system and the occipital lobe processes visual stimulus. Automatic recognition occurs, and it is then placed into iconic memory. This happens very quickly.

The definition

Iconic memory is an integral part of visual memory, which is itself a sensory memory. It has the ability to record a lot of information, but only temporarily (a few hundred milliseconds).

It is the one who maintains the image every time we blink. Thanks to it, eyelid blinks go unnoticed.

We are talking about visual persistence, which is about 150 milliseconds.

For example, if I ask you to look at a picture and then close your eyes and try to see the picture, what you can “see” in your mind’s eye is an iconic memory of the image in the picture.

Through iconic memory, we give meaning to the visual information sent to the brain.

George Sperling has given us a better understanding of iconic memory

George Sperling discover and explain through his work what is the iconic memory.

This scientist presented a series of numbers or letters (about ten or a dozen divided into rows and columns) through a tachitoscope.

After dissemination, tested subjects only remember a maximum of four to five letters, which corresponds to a percentage of about 35%.

This limit corresponds to the apprehension span which is a little closer to the memory span.

George Sperling introduced a new parameter, an audible signal that indicates the line to remember.

Therefore, with this stimulus, the correct answers increase from about 35% to 75%. 

Role and importance of iconic memory

Indeed, Iconic memory plays a very important role in our vision and understanding of the things we see.

For exemple, when we watch television, we see the scenes as if they were happening in front of our eyes.

However, these are static images that follow one another at very high speed.

Even more important than the comfort of our everyday lives, know that it is through iconic memory that images of happy memories pass through.

Milestones do not disappear after a few milliseconds, they are transferred to a more durable memory, in this case episodic memory.