A behavioural investigation of human visual short term memory for colour

V. A. Nemes, N. R A Parry, D. J. McKeefry

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    We examined visual short term memory (VSTM) for colour using a delayed-match-to-sample paradigm. In these experiments we measured the effects of increasing inter-stimulus interval (ISI), varying between 0 and 10 s, on the ability of five colour normal human observers to make colour matches between a reference and subsequently presented test stimuli. The coloured stimuli used were defined by different chromatic axes on the isoluminant plane of DKL colour space. In preliminary experiments we used a hue scaling procedure to identify a total of 12 colour stimuli which served as reference hues in the colour memory experiments: four stimuli were exemplars of red, green, blue and yellow colour appearance categories, four were located between these categories and a further four were located on the cardinal axes that isolated the activity of the cone-opponent mechanisms. Our results demonstrate that there is a reduction in the ability of observers to make accurate colour matches with increasing ISIs and that this reduced performance was similar for all colour stimuli. However, the shifts in hue that were measured between the reference and matched test stimuli were significantly greater for the cardinal stimuli compared to those measured for the stimuli defined by the hue scaling procedure. This deterioration in the retention of hue in VSTM for stimuli that isolate cone-opponent mechanisms may be a reflection of the reorganisation of colour processing that occurs in the cortex where colour appearance mechanisms become more prominent. © 2010 The Authors, Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics © 2010 The College of Optometrists.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)594-601
    Number of pages7
    JournalOphthalmic and Physiological Optics
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2010


    • Colour appearance
    • Colour memory
    • Colour vision
    • Cone-opponency
    • Visual short-term memory


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