Memory and imagery
Paivo’s dual-coding theory
Images are a subjective phenomenon
Image defined as the ease with which something elicits a mental image (mental picture or sound)
Dual-coding theory: The theory that verbal and non-verbal systems are alternative ways of representing events.
E.g. an event can be described with words (verbal) or it can be imagined (non-verbal).
1. Incoming info can be either verbal or non-verbal, 2. It is picked up by the sensory systems, 3. Then info is represented
by verbal or non-verbal system.
Logogens: The units containing the information underlying our use of a word that comprise the verbal system.
Imagens: The units containing information that generate mental images that make up the non-verbal system
natural objects, holistic parts of objects, natural groupings of objects
Information in one system can give rise to info in the other system. They are interconnected: a verbal description of
something can elicit a mental image and vice-versa.
Words that elicit images tend to be concrete (table). Words that do not elicit images tend to be abstract (justice).
Concreteness: The degree to which a word refers to concrete objects/persons/places/things that can be heard, felt,
touched, tasted. Refers to something that can be experienced by the senses.
Measurement of imagery and concreteness: give participants definitions of imagery and concreteness. Ask them to rate
the two concepts (low or high). They are usually correlated.
Paivo thinks that imagery and concreteness measure 2 aspects of the same process. Our experience of concrete events
is necessarily saturated with images.
Some concepts can be caused by concrete things but are not themselves concrete (pain, love). Often refer to emotions.
Research related to dual-coding theory
Paivo (1965): role of imagery in learning. Paired associate learning tstk
Participants asked to memorize pairs of words, then given the 1 word and asked to write down the second
Four groups of participants learned 16 pairs of words
Results: clear differences between the groups.
1. concrete/concrete: learning is best
4. abstract/abstract: learning is worse
Then asked to rate imageability of each word
Results: concrete words higher in imagery than abstract words.
Concrete word coded by either verbal or non-verbal system, abstract word coded only by verbal system (tends to not
elicit and image). Easy to recall a concrete word because it is present in both systems.
Dual-coding theory applied to ++ phenomena (figurative language and metaphor) and also used to understand literacy.
Dual-coding theory and the brain
Left hemisphere: controls speech and is better at processing verbal material
Right hemisphere: better at performing non-verbal tasks
Hypothesis that LH dominant at verbal representation and RH is dominant at imagery challenged by fMRI. Fiebach and Friederici (2003): review of neuroimaging research, cumulative evidence does not support the assumption
of a specific RH involvement during the processing of concrete relative to abstract words.
Participants are shown concrete and abstract words (1-2 letters randomly replaced).
Then given a lexical decision task : indicate whether each stimulus is a word or not (allows to compare
functional brain images to abstract and concrete words )
Results: abstract and concrete words elicited different patterns of activity in the LH
Concrete words did not elicit heightened activity in the RH.
Conclusion: hypothesis that concrete word yield greater LH activation than abstract words = not supported.
Imagery and mnemonics
Mnemonic techniques: procedures used to aid memory
Imagery used as a mnemonic technique since ancient times
Method of loci: A mnemonic technique based on places and images
Learn the loci first, usually places in a building (dissimilar, fait distance apart). Learned over and over again.
Having a cognitive map of the building, invent images to stand for material to be remembered
Each image is placed in a particular locus, images have to be as distinctive as possible.
Memory consists of mentally strolling through the loci and collect images stored there.
Bizarre imagery: hypothesis that bizarre images facilitate recall.
Central part of mnemonic technique is the process of relating images to particular locations
Items interrelated to form units are more easily remembered than are items not so unified. Effectiveness may be due to
ability to organize disparate items into meaningful units.
Distinctiveness: The hypothesis that the more distinctive the item, the easier it is to recall.
Imagery and distinctiveness
Bizareness can have an effect under certain circumstances: remember bizarre items better when they occur along with
common items (E.g., The maid licked ammonia off the table)
Von restorff effect: If one item in a set is different from the others, it will be more likely to be recalled.
different is a relative and not an absolute property!
Humour and distinctiveness
Schmidt (2002): similar effect with humorous items. 3 sets of cartoons shown to participants:
1.set of literal items created by eliminating info in the cartoons to make them humourless.
2. set of weird cartoons to which irrelevant elements were added.
3. Set of humorous cartoons
Results: More accurate description of Humourous cartoons than literal/weird ones if given mixed list to
remember. List of only humorous items: descriptions generally not better
Humour may be a strong aid to memory, especially if humourous material is contrasted with neutral material.
The problem of distinctiveness
Storing things in a special place: people believe that they can remember things better if they make the material
Looks like method of loci, but important differences:
Method of loci, first learn set of places and then store items in them by making imaginary relationship betw