Recognition of complex pictures as a function of probe position and normative complexity

In order to resolve some of the contradictions that exist in the area of pictorial memory and to more fully understand the processing of visual materials, a study was undertaken to examine the serial position curve when the stimuli are relatively complex ‘vacation type’ slides of outdoor scenes. The method chosen for mapping out the serial position function was that of probe recognition. Further, the normative complexity of the slides was varied over two levels. It was predicted that low complexity slides would lead to superior performance on the probe task as compared to high complexity slides. Another expectation was that any serial position effect would be limited to the low complexity slides. This prediction was made on the assumption that low complexity slides are labeled with words and rehearsed as words while no rehearsal, either imaginal or verbal, occurs for high complexity slides. Lists were nine items long and were probed at the first, third, fifth, seventh, and eighth serial positions. Recognition was for exact list sequence rather than for list membership. Separate 2 by 5 analyses of variance were performed for total correct and for the d' of signal detection theory. The probability of a correct response did not differ for the five probe positions sampled, nor was there any reliable effect of slide complexity. These results were discussed in the context of a depth of processing point of view.