Human memory is very fallible, but lately cognitive scientists have found that our minds capture much more visual detail in a moment than once believed. A 2008 paper reported that people who saw thousands of images for three seconds each over five hours later identified ones they’d seen over similar alternatives with nearly 90% accuracy. They didn’t just remember that they’d seen a cracked egg, they remembered that its egg white had formed a perfectly round puddle.
In other words, when we do retrieve a memorable image, a surprising amount of information comes with it, like a burr stuck to a sweater. That insight could have big implications for people who use visualizations in their everyday lives–graphic designers, for instance, or anyone on Tumblr. Above all, it suggests that memorability alone might enhance an infographic’s effectiveness. But it also prompts a question: How does an image become memorable in the first place?