You are on page 1of 1


Verbal Overshadowing of Multiple Face Recognition: Effects on Remembering and Knowing Over Time

Toby J. Lloyd-Jones 1 & Charity Brown 2

1 University of Kent, UK

2 University of Leeds, UK

186 Verbal Overshadowing of Multiple Face Recognition: Effects on Remembering and Knowing Over Time Toby J.
24 study faces INTRODUCTION Examining verbal overshadowing at short and long lags after initial presentation on
24 study faces
Examining verbal overshadowing at short and long lags after initial presentation on face
recognition using the remember/know procedure
Summary of findings
Verbal overshadowing of face recognition
2 (description vs. no description) x 2 (short vs. long lag) x 2 (description first vs. description second)
Describing a previously seen face can interfere with subsequent recognition of that same face
1. Verbal overshadowing influenced discrimination performance.
(e.g., Schooler & Engstler-Schooler, 1990).
Findings are consistent with Brown & Lloyd-Jones (2002, 2003; see Figure 1).
Participants take part in both the description and no description condition the order of which is counterbalanced
Memory-based accounts of verbal overshadowing
However verbal overshadowing only arose when the verbalization task followed the no description condition.
Study Phase
Transfer inappropriate retrieval (Schooler et al., 1997): Performance is impaired because:
We argue that carry-over effects from the description onto the no description condition attenuated the
observation of verbal overshadowing.
(a) participants fail to apply the same non-verbal processing operations at retrieval as were used at
encoding; and (b) engaging in one kind of retrieval operation (e.g. verbal) may inhibit the
5 minutes
Recognition Test
24 study faces mixed with 24 new faces
2. Verbal overshadowing was apparent at the short lag and therefore was relatively short-lived
of another kind of retrieval operation (non-verbal).
Short lag
0-46 intervening items
At the long lag, interference arising from exposure to multiple faces may have reduced recognition
to a level whereby further interference from verbalization was less likely to be observed (see Figure 1).
Misinformation (Meissner et al., 2001): Non-veridical information elicited by the description
impacts unfavourably upon memory.
Long lag
5 secs
Describe the last
(25th) face. Describe
the size, shape of the
forehead, eyes and
eyebrows, nose,
mouth, chin, ears
3. Verbal overshadowing was apparent on familiarity-based recognition errors
47-70 intervening items
5 secs
th Face
Describing a single face encouraged an increase in know false alarms for a series of faces not encountered
previously (see Figures 2 & 3).
The traditional paradigm
5 secs
Participants view and describe (or not) a single face and recognition is tested using a line-up procedure.
Old / New
The nature of verbal interference in the multiple faces paradigm
A new multiple stimuli paradigm (Brown & Lloyd-Jones, 2002, 2003)
5 secs
No Description
Moving towards a perceptual account - Shift in processing style (Brown & Lloyd-Jones, 2002, 2003)
Participants view a series of to-be-remembered stimuli (12 faces or cars) and then describe
(or not) an additional stimulus (e.g., a 13 th face). Describing a single face impairs subsequent old/new
recognition of both faces and cars.
Count backwards
in 3s
Following an ‘old’ decision
a ‘remember’ or ‘know’
judgement is made
Verbalization encourages a shift towards greater visual processing of individual facial features, at the
expense of more global processing useful for recognition of highly visually similar objects.
Only significant (p<.05) findings are reported
Different types of verbal interference?
On this account we would expect a shift in visual processing style to be associated with a decrease in the
perceptual processing fluency for faces encountered at recognition.
The multiple stimuli paradigm differs from the traditional paradigm in a number of ways:
Overall Accuracy: Verbal overshadowing arose at the short, but not the long lag.
However, verbal overshadowing was only evident for one condition order, when the no description baseline condition
was undertaken prior to the description condition.
However, evidence from the remember/know procedure is inconsistent with this account.
• Participants describe a single face, which is not subsequently presented for recognition
• Performance is assessed over a series of study and test trials
• Perceptual memory is assessed in an old/new recognition task rather than using a line-up procedure.
Figure 1: Accuracy at the Short and Long Lag
Verbalization produced an increase in know false alarms. Manipulations of processing fluency have found an
increase, rather than decrease, in processing fluency to be associated with an increase in both hits and false
alarms for know responses.
*p < .05
Accounting for verbal overshadowing errors - False recognition
These differences may be responsible for a different form of interference from that observed in the
traditional paradigm.
No Description
Similarity-based theories of false recognition suggest that the similarity between targets and distracters makes
distracters familiar, which can lead to false recognition. Verbalization may increase this similarity in some way
The present study
Placing parameters on verbal overshadowing in the multiple stimuli paradigm
Fuzzy trace theory (Reyna & Brainerd, 1995): Remember judgements result from the retrieval of
item-specific verbatim traces. Know responses result from gist traces. Verbalization may enhance the gist trace.
Faces consistent with the gist of previously studied faces will be highly familiar and so falsely recognized.
1. The time course of verbal overshadowing
Description 1st
Description 2nd
Description 1st
Description 2nd
Traditional studies have shown verbal overshadowing can persist for up to 2 days. We examined
whether verbal overshadowing in the multiple stimuli paradigm was apparent at relatively short
(0-46 intervening items) and long (across 47-70 intervening items) lags after initial presentation.
Short Lag
Long Lag
MINERVA2 (Arndt & Hirshman, 1988): Familiarity at retrieval is determined by the similarity between
features of an item and features that have been previously encoded across all studied items. Generation of a
generic verbal description may increase this similarity, thereby increasing familiarity, and false recognition.
‘Verbal overshadowing’ is unlikely to be a unitary phenomenon
If verbal interference here is comparable to that observed in the traditional paradigm, we may
expect it to be relatively long lived and evident at both short and long lags.
Incorrect Know judgements: At the short lag verbally describing a single face encouraged an increase in both know
responses to false alarms, and familiarity estimates a associated with false alarms. Verbal overshadowing was not
apparent on these measures at the long lag.
2. Verbal overshadowing on recollection and familiarity-based recognition judgements
Brown & Lloyd-Jones (2002) suggested that verbal overshadowing may reflect either a change in processing
style or an alteration to a particular memory representation of a face, depending on the nature of the paradigm.
Here, verbalization encouraged participants to misidentify people in the multiple stimuli paradigm. Thus
verbalization may also induce false recognition.
Figure 2: Know Responses to False Alarms at the Short Lag
Figure 3: Familiarity Estimates to False Alarms at the Short Lag
The remember/know procedure (Tulving, 1985) requires participants to introspect about the
basis of their recognition memory judgements:
• a ‘remember response’ is when the item is recognized on the basis of remembering qualitative
information about the study event
• a ‘know response’ is when the item is familiar in the absence of recollection
There is disagreement in characterising the relationship between remember and know judgements
and underlying processes of recollection and familiarity. The focus here is on how dissociations
between remember and know judgements inform our understanding of verbal overshadowing.
Description 1st
Description 2nd
Description 1st
Description 2nd
Arndt, J., & Hirshman, E. (1998). True and false recognition in MINERVA2: Explanations from a global matching perspective. Journal of Memory & Language, 39, 371-391.
Brown, C., & Lloyd-Jones, T.J. (2002). Verbal overshadowing in a multiple face presentation paradigm: Effects of description instruction. Applied Cognitive Psychology, 16, 873-885.
Brown, C., & Lloyd-Jones, T.J. (2003). Verbal overshadowing of multiple face and car recognition: Effects of within-versus across-category verbal descriptions.
Applied Cognitive Psychology, 17, 183-201.
Meissner, C.A., Brigham, J.C., & Kelley, C.M. (2001). The influence of retrieval processes in verbal overshadowing. Memory & Cognition 29, 176-186.
Reyna, V.F., & Brainerd, C.J. (1995). Fuzzy-trace theory: An interim synthesis. Learning &Individual Differences, 7, 1-75.
Schooler, J.W., & Engstler-Schooler, T.Y. (1990). Verbal overshadowing of visual memories: Some things are better left unsaid. Cognitive Psychology, 22, 36-71.
Schooler, J.W., Fiore, S.M., & Brandimonte, M.A. (1997). At a loss from words: Verbal overshadowing of perceptual memories. In D.L. Medin (Ed), The Psychology of Learning &
Motivation, 37 (pp. 291-340). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.
Tulving, E. (1985). Memory and consciousness. Canadian Journal of Psychology, 26, 1-12.
Yonelinas, A.P., & Jacoby, L.L. (1995). The relation between remembering and knowing as bases for recognition: Effects of size congruency. Journal of Memory & Language, 34, 622-643.
a Know responses were used as a basis for estimating the underlying
process of familiarity as defined by the independence model of
recollection and familiarity (c.f. Yonelinas & Jacoby, 1995).
Stimuli were provided by the Max-Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tuebingen, Germany
Mean proportion of know responses
Accuracy (d'
Mean familiarity estimates

Presented at the 46

th Annual Meeting of the Psychonomic Society, Toronto, 2005

For a reprint, please contact Toby J. Lloyd-Jones at

Research supported by ESRC research grant RES000-23-0057 to Toby J. Lloyd-Jones