Document Type


Publication Date

Fall 9-1-2002

Journal / Book Title

Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition


In 4 experiments, symbolic comparisons were investigated to test semantic-memory retrieval accounts espousing processing advantages for the picture over word stimuli. In Experiment 1, participants judged pairs of animal names or pictures by responding to questions probing concrete or abstract attributes (texture or size, ferocity or intelligence). Per pair, attributes were salient or nonsalient concerning their prerated relevance to animals being compared. Distance (near or far) between attribute magnitudes was also varied. Pictures did not significantly speed responding relative to words across all other variables. Advantages were found for far attribute magnitudes (i.e., the distance effect) and salient attributes. The distance effect was much less for salient than nonsalient concrete-attribute comparisons. These results were consistently found in additional experiments with increased statistical power to detect modality effects. Our findings argue against dual-coding and some common-code accounts of conceptual attribute processing, urging a reexamination of the assumption that pictures confer privileged access to long-term knowledge.


DOI: 10.1037/0278-7393.28.5.843

Published Citation

Amrhein, P. C., M. A. McDaniel, and P. Waddill. "Revisiting the picture-superiority effect in symbolic comparisons: do pictures provide privileged access?." Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition 28, no. 5 (2002): 843-857.