Two experiments investigated whether attention plays a role in iconic memory, employing either a change detection paradigm (Experiment 1) or a partial-report paradigm (Experiment 2). In each experiment, attention was taxed during initial display presentation, focusing the manipulation on consolidation of information into iconic memory, prior to transfer into working memory. Observers were able to maintain high levels of performance (accuracy of change detection or categorization) even when concurrently performing an easy visual search task (low load). However, when the concurrent search was made difficult (high load), observers' performance dropped to almost chance levels, while search accuracy held at single-task levels. The effects of attentional load remained the same across paradigms. The results suggest that, without attention, participants consolidate in iconic memory only gross representations of the visual scene, information too impoverished for successful detection of perceptual change or categorization of features.
Persuh, Marjan; Genzer, Boris; and Melara, Robert D., "Iconic memory requires attention" (2012). CUNY Academic Works.