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The role of visual stimuli in the organization and recall of social information was investigated in a study that presented photographs of stimulus persons along with verbal trait descriptors. Paired with four trait descriptors of each stimulus person, subjects saw either (a) no picture, (b) one trait-unrelated picture, (c) four trait-unrelated pictures, or (d) four trait-related pictures. These conditions permitted a test of several competing explanations for the previously obtained improvement in memory for semantic information when accompanied by pictorial information. Results indicated that pictures incremented recall of trait information in two distinct stages—once with the addition of pictorial information and again when the pictures became relevant to the traits. Clustering in free recall on the basis of person categories was unaffected by the experimental conditions. These findings were consistent with the hypothesis that pictures enhance person memory by fostering elaboration on stimulus information at encoding.


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© American Psychological Association. Final version published as: Lynn, M., Shavitt, S., & Ostrom, T. (1985). Effects of pictures on the organization and recall of social information. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(5), 1160-1168. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved.

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