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Picture stimuli have an advantage over word stimuli because they are dully encoded; they generate a verbal and image code, whereas word stimuli only generate a verbal code. Pictures are likely to generate a verbal label, whereas words are not likely to generate image labels.
Pictures hold two encoding advantages over words. Pictures are perceptually more distinct from one another than are words, thus increasing their chance for retrieval. In experiments when similarity among pictures was high, no picture superiority effect was present. Pictures are also believed to assess meaning more directly than words. Levels of processing theory apply when words and pictures are compared under semantic study instructions (rate the pleasantness of each item), recall is very similar for pictures and words, as both were encoded at deeper levels.
Picture superiority results from superior encoding for pictures as opposed to words, which facilitate greater recollection for pictures.
Greater overlap of processing at study and test result in increased performance. TAP accounts for picture superiority by an interaction of encoding and retrieval. If items are encoded during a semantic task, performance should be higher for a memory test that relies on concepts related to the items for retrieval than a test that relies on perceptual features.