Memories of visual images are stored in what is called visual memory. Our minds use visual memory to perform even the simplest of computations; from remembering the face of someone we’ve just met, to remembering what time it was last we checked. Without visual memory, we wouldn’t be able to store—and later retrieve—anything we see. Just as a computer’s memory capacity constrains its abilities, visual memory capacity has been correlated with a number of higher cognitive abilities, including academic success, fluid intelligence (the ability to solve novel problems), and general comprehension.
For many reasons, then, it would be very useful to understand how visual memory facilitates these mental operations, as well as constrains our ability to perform them. Yet although these big questions have long been debated, we are only now beginning to answer them.