Opportunity for verbalization does not improve visual change detection performance: A state-trace analysis

Florian Sense, Candice Morey, Melissa Prince, Andrew Heathcote, Richard Morey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    22 Citations (Scopus)


    Evidence suggests that there is a tendency to verbally recode visually-presented information, and that in some cases verbal recoding can boost memory performance. According to multi-component models of working memory, memory performance is increased because task-relevant information is simultaneously maintained in two codes. The possibility of dual encoding is problematic if the goal is to measure capacity for visual information exclusively. To counteract this possibility, articulatory suppression is frequently used with visual change detection tasks specifically to prevent verbalization of visual stimuli. But is this precaution always necessary? There is little reason to believe that concurrent articulation affects performance in typical visual change detection tasks, suggesting that verbal recoding might not be likely to occur in this paradigm, and if not, precautionary articulatory suppression would not always be necessary. We present evidence confirming that articulatory suppression has no discernible effect on performance in a typical visual change-detection task in which abstract patterns are briefly presented. A comprehensive analysis using both descriptive statistics and Bayesian state-trace analysis revealed no evidence for any complex relationship between articulatory suppression and performance that would be consistent with a verbal recoding explanation. Instead, the evidence favors the simpler explanation that verbal strategies were either not deployed in the task or, if they were, were not effective in improving performance, and thus have no influence on visual working memory as measured during visual change detection. We conclude that in visual change detection experiments in which abstract visual stimuli are briefly presented, pre-cautionary articulatory suppression is unnecessary.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)853-862
    Number of pages10
    JournalBehavior Research Methods
    Issue number3
    Early online date2016
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2017


    • Articulatory suppression
    • Change detection
    • State-trace
    • Verbalization
    • Working memory capacity


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