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Am J Psychol. 2000 Spring;113(1):95-121.

Does the generation effect occur for pictures?

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New York University, USA.


The generation effect is the finding that self-generated stimuli are recalled and recognized better than read stimuli. The effect has been demonstrated primarily with words. This article examines the effect for pictures in two experiments: Subjects named complete pictures (name condition) and fragmented pictures (generation condition). In Experiment 1, memory was tested in 3 explicit tasks: free recall, yes/no recognition, and a source-monitoring task on whether each picture was complete or fragmented (the complete/incomplete task). The generation effect was found for all 3 tasks. However, in the recognition and source-monitoring tasks, the generation effect was observed only in the generation condition. We hypothesized that absence of the effect in the name condition was due to the sensory or process match effect between study and test pictures and the superior identification of pictures in the name condition. Therefore, stimuli were changed from pictures to their names in Experiment 2. Memory was tested in the recognition task, complete/incomplete task, and second source-monitoring task (success/failure) on whether each picture had been identified successfully. The generation effect was observed for all 3 tasks. These results suggest that memory of structural and semantic characteristics and of success in identification of generated pictures may contribute to the generation effect.

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