Running head: THE EFFECT OF BACKGROUNDS ON RECALL









The Difference of Main Recall Between Pictures and Words When Presented on a Background or No Background.
Tara M. O'Donnell
State University of New York at StonyBrook
Psy 380.02










Abstract
The picture superiority effect has been studied for many years and many theories have been proposed to explain it. Craik and Loackhart (1972) have found that pictures are always remembered better than words. Swets and Birdsall (1967) on the other hand have used the signal detection theory to try to explain how the picture superiority effect could be reversed. The signal detection theory states that it takes longer to find critical items when there is other extra information in the way. This is what we hope to prove. By showing participants pictures and words on a background or no background we hope to show that words will be remembered better when on a background. This hypothesis is supported by the signal detection theory because we believe that it will take longer to find the picture on a background, giving the participants less time to encode and store it, thus making retrieval of the item harder.








The Difference of Main Recall Between Pictures and Words When Presented on a Background or No Background
An experiment was performed to test the finding that pictures are remembered better than words. This finding has been termed the "picture superiority effect" and has been demonstrated in numerous experiments (Craik and Loackhart, 1972, and Paivio, 1986). In a typical experiment the participants were asked to study a mixed list of words and pictures and were then asked to recall the studied items. According to Paivio, Rogers, and Smythe (1968) it was found that the pictures of objects were recalled significantly better than their names. Over the years, many theories have been proposed to explain the picture superiority effect.
One possible explanation that has been proposed concerns levels of processing as given by Craik and Loackhart (1972). Based on levels of processing, it has been proposed that there is a deeper level of encoding for pictures than for words. There are three levels of encoding; graphemic, phametic, and semantic (Craik and Loackhart, 1972). Words are remembered more in the first two levels, where as pictures are remembered better at the third and deepest level (Craik and Loackhart, 1972). The deeper the level, the better something is encoded, and thus, remembered and retrieved quicker and better.
Another explanation for the picture superiority effect is the dual coding hypothesis. Paivio (1986) states that the verbal and pictorial information are stored independently, but are interconnected. In other words, independence means that one system may be active while the other is not, or that both can be active at the same time. Interconnected-
ness, on the other hand, suggests that one system can be activated by the other through related pathways that connect verbal and pictorial units. Pictures are more likely to elicit both verbal and pictorial codes than are words, which could be a reason why they are remembered better.
Although several studies have shown the picture superiority effect may be explained by the theories above, other theories such as signal detection suggest the picture superiority effect may be reversed (words remembered better than pictures). Since a problem with encoding might have to do with the interference of encoding in which extraneous information interferes with the critical items, we proposed that words would be remembered better than pictures on a background. According to signal detection theory, it takes longer to find the critical items when there is a background (Swets and Birdsall, 1967).
To test this hypothesis we used a mixed design in which all participants viewed both pictures and words, but one group viewed the critical pictures and words on a background and the other group viewed the same items on no background
Based on the theories discussed above, we predict that pictures will be better remembered than words when they are both presented on a plain white background. However, we predicted that words would be remembered better than pictures if they were presented on a background. This outcome would support the signal detection theory. Two other hypotheses were also derived for the picture superiority effect, they were that regardless of the fact if the stimuli was a word or a picture there would be no difference