British Journal of Developmental Psychology

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Volume 37 Issue 3 (September 2019), Pages i-iv, 309-446

The picture superiority effect in associative memory: A developmental study (pages 382-395)

We tested whether semantic relatedness between to‐be‐remembered items and item presentation format (pictorial vs. verbal) affects associative recall. Fifty‐nine children (11–13 years old) and forty young adults (age 18–30) completed a learning and recall task for semantically related (e.g., padlock‐key) and unrelated (e.g., lemon‐piano) picture–picture, word–picture, and word–word pairs. The data revealed memory advantage for semantically related item pairs, and for pictures compared to words. A picture superiority effect was found exclusively for pure picture pairs. Despite pronounced differences in memory accuracy, the effect of semantic relatedness and the picture superiority effect were comparable in adults and children. Semantic relatedness and pictures seem to trigger deeper semantic processing of associated items. Our results suggest distinct contributions of semantic binding and memory strategies to associative memory, while the last seem to account particularly for age‐related differences in associative recall. Statement of contribution What is already known on this subject? Recognition advantage for picture over word stimuli, known as the picture superiority effect. PSE is found for single and associated picture over word items. Conflicting data about developmental aspects of the PSE. What does this study add? PSE is modulated by pre‐existing semantic relations between picture stimuli. Semantic relation seems to modulate the PSE to a lesser extent in children than in adults. The cognitive processes behind the PSE might change with age.

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