Each day we are bombarded with branding and repetitive advertising. Is it feasible that we dutifully soak up visuals and messages and store them accurately?

An experiment tested the concept by examining our memory of the ubiquitous Apple logo and our perceived ability for recall.  

Apple has long been a logo recognized the world over and now it is riding a wave of unparalleled fan adulation, with people standing in line for hours just to overpay for phones, tablets and watches and the aesthetic self-identification the logo brings.

With so much visibility, surely we stand a good chance of remembering the logo? Past research has shown that memory can be poor for daily items, with our brains glossing over the details and only getting the gist of it, so the question remains, does exposure enhance memory? The authors test the theory via an experiment during which a group of undergraduates (both Apple and PC users) were asked to draw the logo from memory and then choose the correct logo from a set of 8 alternatives.

The study rated candidates' confidence levels pre and post experiment. Astonishingly, only 1 out of 85 was able to accurately draw the logo and less than half chose the correct image from the selection. Confidence levels and recognition did not correlate; confidence pre task was 55% higher than post. Candidates rapidly adjusted their confidence estimates post retrieval upon realising the complexity of the task. This striking difference shows our memory to be much poorer than we believe and highlights lack of self-awareness to our own attention lapses.

This experiment has given unique insight into accuracy of visual memory and recall judgement. The authors suggest the poor performance is due to “attentional saturation”, they note “Increased exposure increases familiarity and confidence, but does not reliably affect memory. Despite frequent exposure to a simple and visually pleasing logo, attention and memory are not always tuned to remembering what we may think is memorable.”

Citation: Adam D Blake, Meenely Nazarian&Alan D Castel, Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology DOI:10.1080/17470218.2014.1002798. Image: Shutterstock