People Are Really Bad at Drawing the Apple Logo From Memory

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Student drawings of the Apple logo. Recall scores range 0–14. Confidence 0–10. The central image was the only one to score perfect marks.
Photo: Blake et al 2015

The Apple logo is everywhere — incidentally, I am currently typing this on an ancient Macbook and I have my iPhone in my pocket. And yet a new study from researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles found only one out of 85 undergraduate students could accurately draw the ubiquitous logo from memory. The study is published online in full in The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology in case you’d like to read it for yourself, and yesterday the results were highlighted on the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest.

In a second experiment, researchers asked students to pick out the correct Apple logo in a sea of fakes; you can test your own skill at this task at their website. Over at Research Digest, psychologist Christian Jarrett explains the findings this way: 

… the over-exposure to, and availability of, the Apple logo stops people attending to its details (this makes sense from a functional perspective – why bother remembering something that’s ever present?). Consequently people form a “gist memory for the logo (i.e. “it’s an apple”) and they end up drawing what it “should look like instead of what they remembered it to look like,” [the researchers write]. The researchers predict the same might be true for the coloured letters of the ubiquitous Google logo, and other highly familiar logos.

To be fair, when the students were asked to estimate how accurate their drawings would turn out to be, they were only moderately confident — they rated their ability at 5.47 on average out of 10. Still, it’s yet another example of the surprising ways our memories fail us. (Hi, Brian Williams.)

People Are Really Bad at Drawing the Apple Logo