At a loss from words: Verbal overshadowing of perceptual memories

TitleAt a loss from words: Verbal overshadowing of perceptual memories
Publication TypeBook Chapter
Year of Publication1997
AuthorsSchooler J.W., Fiore S., Brandimonte M.A.
Book TitlePsychology of learning and motivation
PublisherD.L. Medin
CitySan Diego, CA

What happens when one attempts to articulate cognitions that cannot be fully captured in words? More specifically, what happens when one attempts to describe their memory for an indescribable perceptual experience? If perceptual memories exceed words, and yet can be constrained by language, then describing one’s recollections of perceptual experiences might actually impede later access to the nonreportable aspect of those experiences. There is a growing accumulation of evidence that verbalization of perceptual memories can interfere with subsequent memory performance. This verbal disruption of nonverbal cognition was examined by J. W. Schooler and Engsler-Schooler (1990) in the domain of face recognition. This form of interference was termed "verbal overshadowing" on the basis of two hypotheses: that the disruptive effects of verbalization are specifically the consequence of verbalizing nonverbal cognition; and that verbalization overshadows but does not eradicate the original perceptual memory. Additionally, they introduced a general account of verbal overshadowing effects, termed the "recoding interference hypothesis". The original studies of Schooler and Engsler-Schooler are reviewed in the context of these three characterizations of verbal overshadowing effects.

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