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

streetscapes and others. Human subjects in the study (who participated through Amazon's Mechanical Turk program, which farms tasks out to people sitting at their own computers) were shown a series of images, some of which were repeated. Their task was to indicate, by pressing a key on their keyboard, when an image appeared that they had already seen.

Each image's memorability rating was determined by how many participants correctly remembered seeing it.

In general, different research subjects tended to produce similar memorability ratings. "There are always differences between observers, but on average, there is very high consistency," says Oliva, who is also a principal investigator in the computer vision group at MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory.

After gathering their data, the researchers made "memorability maps" of each image by asking people to label all the objects in the images. A computer model can then analyze those maps to determine which objects make an image memorable.

In general, images with people in them are the most memorable, followed by images of human-scale space such as the produce aisle of a grocery store and close-ups of objects. Least memorable are natural landscapes, although those can be memorable if they feature an unexpected element, such as shrubbery trimmed into an unusual shape.

Alexei Efros, associate professor of computer science at Carnegie Mellon University, says the study offers a novel way to characterize images.

"There has been a lot of work in trying to understand what makes an image interesting, or appealing, or what makes people like a particular image. But all of those questions are really hard to answer," says Efros, who was not involved in this research. "What [the MIT researchers] did was basically approach the problem from a very scientific point of view and say that one thing we can measure is memorability."

Predicting memorabil
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Contact: Caroline McCall
cmccall5@mit.edu
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Source:Eurekalert

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