Several studies have shown that giving brief descriptions for unfamiliar faces can lead to better episodic recognition memory relative to faces in a view-only (control) condition. More broadly, this finding is consistent with the benefits of elaboration during study on later recognition. Two articles have reported description benefits when participants did not know the study condition (control or description) for a trial until after a face was removed from view (Jones, Armstrong, Casey, Burson, & Memon, 2013; Jones, Robinson, & Steel, 2018). We conducted 3 experiments to shed additional light on the basis for this benefit, and the measures we used were old–new recognition and recognition confidence for the face and the proportion of test faces with recall for descriptive information. In Experiments 1 and 2 participants were explicitly instructed to describe each study face and to type the description or not (control condition). There was a numerical advantage for “old” responses, with the difference being significant in Experiment 1. A significant advantage for the typed condition occurred for “very sure old” and recall responses for both experiments. The advantage occurred across study repetition conditions in Experiment 1 and when participants were given plenty of time to generate a description in Experiment 2. Overall, these findings indicate that physically typing the description leads to a small advantage in recollection relative to a condition without physical production (i.e., a type of physical production effect). However, the production advantage was not obtained on any measure in Experiment 3 when the control condition required participants to type the number of words in the description.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.