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down, placed on top of each other.’’ When the instructions asked you whether the figure contained a paral- lelogram, you may have searched through your verbal description. Your search would locate only triangles, not parallelograms. Notice that Reed’s (1974) research supports the verbal propositional-code approach, rather than the analog-code approach. Similar research explored whether people could provide reinterpretations for a mental image of an ambiguousfigure. For example, you can interpret the ambiguous stimulus in Figure 7.3 in two ways: a rabbit facing to the right or a duck facing to the left. Chambers and Reisberg (1985) asked participants to create a clear mental image of this figure. Next, the researchers removed the figure. The participants were then asked to give a second, different interpretation of that particular figure. None of the 15 people could do so. In other words, they apparently could not consult a stored mental image.Next, the participants were asked to draw the figure from memory. Could they reinterpret this physical stimulus? All of them looked at the figure they had just drawn, and all 15 were able to supply a second interpretation. Chambers and Reisberg’s research suggests that a strong verbal propositional code—such as ‘‘a duck that is facing left’’—can overshadow a relatively weak analog code. Other similar research has replicated these findings. It’s often easy to reverse a visual stimulus while you are looking at a physical picture that is ambiguous. In contrast, it’s usually more difficult to
reverse a mental image (Reisberg & Heuer, 2005). Now try Demonstration 7.4 before you read further. It seems likely thatpeople often use an analog code when they are thinking about fairly simple figures (like the two hands of a clock). In contrast, people may use a propositional code when the figures are more complex, as in the case of the research by Reed(1974) and Chambers and Reisberg (1985). As Kosslyn and his coauthors (2006) point out, our memory has a limited capacity for visual imagery. We may therefore have difficulty storing complex visual information in an analog code and then making accurate judgments about these mental images. Verbal labels (and a propositional code) may be especially helpful if the visual stimulus is complex. For example, when I work on a jigsaw puzzle, I often find that I’ve attached a verbal label—such as ‘‘angel with outstretched wings’’—to aid my search for a missing piece. In the case of these complex shapes, storage may be mostly propositional. In other research, Finke and his colleagues (1989) asked people to combine two mental images, as in Demonstration 7.4. The participants in this study could indeed create new interpretations for these ambiguous stimuli. In addition to a combined X and H figure, they reported some new geometric shapes (such as a right triangle), some new letters (such as M), and some objects (such as a bow tie). Other research Brandimonte & Gerbino, 1996; Kosslyn et al., 2006; Rouw et al., 1997).