Verbal description benefits for faces when description conditions are unknown a priori

todd jones, ruth armstrong, allanah casey, rebecca burson, Amina Memon

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ome prior research has shown a benefit for describing nonverbal study stimuli, particularly faces, on a later recognition test relative to a control (no description) condition. In such studies, participants have known a priori whether a stimulus will need to be described, meaning that encoding differences other than the description could account for the effect. In Experiment 1, a description benefit was obtained for faces that could not be attributed to encoding differences. A direct manipulation of description dur- ation, thus allowing more time to produce descriptors, did not influence the description effect. In Experiment 2, visual rehearsal instructions (without any verbal descriptions) failed to produce a rehear- sal benefit. The experiments provide direct evidence against an account where the description or rehear- sal enhances the featural information of nonverbal representations. For the present results, a benefit stemming from the encoding and retrieval of descriptors appears to be an attractive theoretical alterna- tive over one that posits an enhancement or alteration of featural or holistic information.
Original languageEnglish
Article number
JournalThe Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2013


  • verbal facilitation
  • face recognition
  • episodic face recognition

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