The picture superiority effect: Support for the distinctiveness model

Miriam Z. Mintzer, Joan Gay Snodgrass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


The form change paradigm was used to explore the basis for the picture superiority effect. Recognition memory for studied pictures and words was tested in their study form or the alternate form. Form change cost was defined as the difference between recognition performance for same and different form items. Based on the results of Experiment 1 and previous studies, it was difficult to determine the relative cost for studied pictures and words due to a reversal of the mirror effect. We hypothesized that the reversed mirror effect results from subjects' basing their recognition decisions on their assumptions about the study form. Experiments 2 and 3 confirmed this hypothesis and generated a method for evaluating the relative cost for pictures and words despite the reversed mirror effect. More cost was observed for pictures than words, supporting the distinctiveness model of the picture superiority effect.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)113-146
Number of pages34
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychology
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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