Visual Memory

VDL Categories: Vision- and Perception, Art & Design

link to "instructor" page (some more readings, discussion points)

Project type

In-class activity



Common type of exercise in visual thinking courses.


Background materials



Skill set being developed

  • Observational skills
  • Awareness of visual complexity
  • Awareness of both the potential power and weakness of visual memory


Relevance to Visual Digital Literacy

Because much visual processing is preconscious and little of it is explicitly learned unless one studies art or design, most people do not realize how selective their (conscious) visual memory is.


Interactive multimedia software

Flash-based program that delivers the activity, with instructions for completion. (See Activities below.)

Run Flash-based exercise


Materials Needed

None if flash software is used. Instructors can easily substitute their own images and questions and conduct the lesson without the software.


Examples of relevant applications of the module content

  • Observing images in a critical context
  • Observing real-life visual phenomena for the purpose of scientific, art and design, or many other possible purposes.
  • Observation skills necessary for drawing and general design projects



  • An image is observed for 15 seconds, after which a series of questions is posed. Answers can be compared to instructor's answers or assessed by further viewing of the original image. The Flash software shows the full image for 15 seconds, the answers (with appropriate image croppings), and then presents the image again, with information on its authorship and content.
  • The activity is repeated with a different image.


  1. How many of the questions for each image were answered correctly?
  2. What types of questions were correct and what types were not?
  3. Were problems due to lack of memory of detail or integration of misleading cues?