picture superiority effect (PSE) VS picture-inferiority effect

the conditions under which pictures are better remembered than words

The finding of better memory for pictures compared to words was reported as early as the 19th century (Kirkpatrick, 1894). Kirkpatrick demonstrated that real objects were better remembered than either written or spoken words both tested immediately, and at a 3-day delay.

This picture superiority effect (PSE), as it has come to be called, is a robust phenomenon with numerous demonstrations of the basic finding that pictures are better recognized and recalled than their labels (e.g., Brady et al., 2008; Madigan, 1974, 1983; Nelson, Reed, & Walling, 1976; Nickerson 1965, 1968; Paivio, 1991; Paivio & Csapo, 1973; Paivio, Rogers, & Smythe, 1968; Shepard, 1967).

The number of pictures can be remembered is striking. Standing (1973) showed that people can remember thousands of unique pictures with great accuracy.

In order to discriminate the studied picture from a semantically similar foil, subjects must have encoded and retained visual details of the stimulus such as color, shape, texture, etc.

The most  popular and frequently cited explanation for PSE is Paivio’s Dual Code theory:

The theory’s basic premise is that there are 2 codes for pictures, one that is visual-imagen and one that  is verbal-logogen and only one for words-verbal.

Pictures have perceptual information, i.e. colors, shapes etc., also verbal information, i.e. picture of a dog.

Together the 2 codes increase the memory strength of pictures because three can usually be two ways to represent any one pictorial item.

Pictures have a “naming” advantage since labels are often automatically elicited, whereas images for words are not generated without explicit instruction and additional mental effort.

Paivio demonstrated that, when subjects are instructed to generate images when studying lists of pictures and words, words are remembered as accurately as pictures.

Rapid presentation rate-5.3items per second,

subjects are slower at naming a picture than reading a word, and rp does not allow subjects enough time to generate a label, so picture lose the dual code advantage.

Pictures are more perceptually rich than words, and this visual
distinctiveness lends them an advantage in memory.

To the extent that subjects also encode the stimulus as a verbal label, subjects have two codes for picture:

in addition to the perceptual features of the stimulus, e.g. color, shape, and texture, people also store a verbal label-similar to the representation for a studied word-that enriches the memory trace and provides redundancy.

if Memory is measured using free recall, the Dual Code Theory can explain why pictures produce more free recall.

Sometimes words are better remembered than pictures.

we conducted an experiment whose goal was not to test the PSE, but the results frequently elicited comments from memory experts who were surprised by the superior memory for words than for photographs and pictures.

Visual recognition memory for complex configurations


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