Color-sharing Bonus

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Description: Color repetitions in a visual scene boost memory for its elements, a phenomenon known as the color-sharing effect. This may occur because improved perceptual organization reduces information load or because the repetitions capture attention. The implications of these explanations differ drastically for both the theoretical meaning of this effect and its potential value for applications in design of visual materials. If repetitions capture attention to the exclusion of other details, this should be considered when deciding whether to use repetitions in graphic designs. We manipulated the availability of general attention during a visual memory task by comparing groups of participants engaged in meaningless speech or attention-demanding continuous arithmetic. We also tracked eye movements as an implicit indicator of selective attention. Estimated memory capacity was always higher when color duplicates were tested, and under full attention conditions this bonus spilled over to the unique colors too. Analyses of gazes showed that with full attention, participants tended to glance earlier at duplicate colors during stimulus presentation but looked more at unique colors during the retention interval. This pattern of results suggests that the color-sharing bonus occurs because efficient perceptual organization of the display is enhanced by strategic attention allocation when attention is available.

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