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Interactive Imagery

An important element in the method of loci is interactive imagery . One item will help you remember another if they are linked (interacting). In the method of loci, locations are used as cues. An item is much more likely to be remembered if it is imagined as being actively involved with the location in some way rather than sitting there doing nothing. When items are intertwined or associated they are said to be interacting and they become a single chunk or whole in memory.

What is the best way to insure that two items are remembered together? How important was "bizarre imagery"?

Bower (1970) studied the power of interactive imagery by having subjects imagine either adjacent images or interacting images. A subject in the non-interactive (adjacent-image) group might be given the word pair "dog, bicycle" and asked to imagine a dog sitting next to a bicycle. A subject in the interacting-image group would be asked to imagine a dog riding a bicycle. The group using interactive imagery performed much better in a test of recall.

Research does not support the claim that memory is enhanced by unusual or bizarre imagery. Wollen, Weber and Lowry (1972) compared the performance of subjects using bizarre versus ordinary images. Both groups did equally well. The researchers also compared interacting and non-interacting images. Like Bower, they found that interacting images produced superior recall.

What did Wollen, Weber, and Lowry explore? What did they discover about effects of bizarreness and interaction?

The following figures show four types of images. The upper left image is "noninteracting and nonbizarre." It just shows a piano and cigar next to each other. The upper right image, showing a piano from below with its keyboard peeling off and a cigar burning at both ends, was intended to be bizarre but noninteracting. The bottom left image shows the elements interacting, but is not bizarre: the cigar is merely resting on the piano. Finally, the bottom right image, a piano smoking a cigar, is both interactive and bizarre.


Images similar to those used by Wollen, Weber and Lowry (1972)

Wollen, Weber and Lowry found that the interacting images-both bizarre and non-bizarre-were better recalled. However, bizarreness by itself did not aid memory. A cigar resting on a piano was just as effective as a cigar being smoked by a piano for purposes of improving memory.

Why are interacting images so effective?

Why are interacting images so effective in helping memory? An interacting or well-integrated mental image is a unitary thing. It is remembered as a whole. Therefore, it tends to be retrieved as a whole. If you imagine a dog riding a bicycle, and later you remember the dog, the bicycle naturally comes with it. On the other hand, if the images are not interacting (the dog is sitting off to the side of the bicycle) you are more likely to remember one without the other.

How is unitization involved in many memory techniques?

Interactive imagery is an example of unitization, making of a unitary memory out of several different components. In almost every memory technique, different parts are combined into a unit, an integrated whole. Because the different parts are grouped or unified, they function as one thing in memory. When one part of the thing is remembered, other parts are, too. That is why mnemonic systems work: when one part is retrieved, the rest of it comes back into memory, too. This should remind you of chunking, which is also a form of unitization, used to improve the capacity of primary memory (p.284) by grouping several small items into one unit, a chunk.

How can advertisers use unitization? What made the Wisk ad effective?

Unitization works well in advertising. A good advertisement combines several elements into a unified whole: the name of the product, a catchy jingle, and words that tell you what the product does. When you remember the catchy jingle, the name of the product will appear in your memory, automatically. The banal ad, "Wisk around the collar for ring around the collar" is a fine example. It must have worked well to sell Wisk detergent, because it was on TV for 20 years from the 1960s through the 1980s. It became TV's longest continuously running ad theme. The product name was integrated with the ad slogan. If a consumer remembered the ad, or saw a dirty shirt collar, the name of the product came to mind.


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