Visual Recall

When glancing at a magazine or browsing the Internet we are continuously exposed to photographs and images. Despite this overflow of visual information, Oliva’s group has shown that humans are extremely adept at remembering thousands of pictures and a surprising amount of their visual details.

While some images stick in our minds, others are ignored or quickly forgotten. Artists, advertisers and photographers are routinely challenged by the question “what makes an image memorable?” and are then presented with the task of how to create an image that speaks to the viewer. The quality of what makes an image memorable is hard to quantify, yet our work suggests that it is not an inexplicable phenomenon, and that subjective intuitions of what make an image memorable may need to be revised.

On this website, you can check out the datasets we used in our studies, and read more about our work on the publications page.


What makes an image memorable?

Hint: We tend to remember pictures of people much better than wide open spaces. Next time you go on vacation, you may want to think twice before shooting hundreds of photos of that scenic mountain or lake. A new study from MIT neuroscientists shows that the most memorable photos are those that contain people, followed by static indoor scenes and human-scale objects.

Photos with Strange or Funny Details Deemed Most Memorable

The brain looks for more than beauty when evaluating snapshots. Budding photographers, beware: the beauty of a serene sunset, a peaceful forest or a majestic mountain range is not sufficient to make a vacation snapshot memorable.

Total Recall: Human memory capacity much bigger than previously thought

In recent years, demonstrations of memory's failures have convinced many scientists that human memory does not store the details of our experiences. However, a new study from MIT cognitive neuroscientists may overturn this widespread belief.