Is the Levels of Processing effect language-limited?

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The concept of Levels of Processing (LOP), proposing that deep coding enhances retention,has played a central role in the study of episodic memory. Evidence has however been based almost entirely on retention of individual words. Across five experiments, we compare LOP effects between visual and verbal stimuli, using judgments of pleasantness as a method of inducing deep encoding and a range of shallow encoding judgments selected so as to be applicable to both verbal and visual stimuli. LOP effects were consistent but modest across the visual stimuli (mean effect size 0.5). In contrast, LOP effects for verbal stimuli varied widely, from modest for people’s names and unfamiliar animals (mean effect size 0.6) to large for familiar animals and household items (mean effect size 1.4), typical of the dramatic LOP effects that characterize the existing verbal literature. We interpret our data through the Gibsonian concept of ‘‘affordance”, proposing that visual and verbal stimuli
vary in the number and richness of features they afford, and that access to such features will in turn depend on encoding strategy. Our hypothesis links readily with Nairne’s feature model of long-term memory.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Early online date30 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2017

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© 2016, Elsevier. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details


  • Levels of processing; Long-term memory; Affordance; Visual memory; Verbal memory; Encoding

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