Apple's logo is a masterpiece of form. It's a refined, elegant shape that represents the computer brand without the need for words, and represents an expectation of quality. But, according to a UCLA study published last month, nobody can remember what it looks like. Scientists at the university asked 85 students, 89 percent of whom were Apple users, to draw the Apple logo from memory. Only seven were able to draw the iconic image without major errors. Only one could reproduce the logo accurately.
The students drawings, shown in the paper, were muddled. Some got the basic idea but missed minor details, misplaced the bite, or added two stalks at the top of the Apple. Others missed the mark entirely, drawing flattened hand grenades or approximations of the Pepsi logo. But the paper suggests the blindspot doesn't just apply to drawing — when students were asked to pick out the real Apple logo from a lineup of similar images, only 47 percent of them chose the right answer. Apple users had a slight advantage over PC users in the test, but the scientists behind the study said there "was not a significant difference."
The inability to clearly remember well-known images and logos has been observed before — a similar study, conducted in the 1970s, showed that people couldn't recall what was on the faces of an American penny. But UCLA's scientists say the new study is different in that it examines logos that are "prominently advertised, people attend to frequently, and are designed to be recognizable." People use pennies, but rarely need to closely observe their features; Apple's logo is easy to find in everyday life and designed to be noticed.
Instead, the scientists say the students' forgetfulness may be down to "a form of attentional saturation," which can lead to "inattentional amnesia" — the logo's simplicity and ubiquity mean that people stop noticing the details because their brain tells them they don't need to. "Under intentional learning conditions," the study says, "people could memorize and reproduce the logo," but without the need to do so, we simply acknowledge its existence. Our brains, used to seeing the image everywhere, use an "efficient and adaptive memory system" to avoid storing the unnecessary information.