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MIT research: What makes an image memorable?
Date:5/24/2011

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- 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. Landscapes? They may be beautiful, but they are, in most cases, utterly forgettable.

"Pleasantness and memorability are not the same," says MIT graduate student Phillip Isola, one of the lead authors of the paper, which will be presented at the IEEE Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition, taking place June 20-25 in Colorado Springs.

The new paper is the first to model what makes an image memorable a trait long thought to be impenetrable to scientific study, because visual memory can be so subjective. "People did not think it was possible to find anything consistent," says Aude Oliva, associate professor of cognitive science and a senior author of the paper.

However, the MIT team, which also included Antonio Torralba, the Esther and Harold E. Edgerton Associate Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and one of his graduate students, Jianxiong Xiao, was surprised to see remarkable consistency among hundreds of people who participated in the memory experiments.

Using their findings from humans, the researchers developed a computer algorithm that can rank images based on memorability. Such an algorithm could be useful to graphic designers, photo editors, or anyone trying to decide which of their vacation photos to post on Facebook, Oliva says.

Why we remember

Oliva's previous research has shown that the human brain can remember thousands of images, with a surprising level of detail. However, not all images are equally memorable.

For the new study, the researchers built a collection of about 10,000 images of all kinds interior-design photos, nature scenes,
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Contact: Caroline McCall
cmccall5@mit.edu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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