Is There a Context Effect for the Identification of Brand Logos

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Plotnick, Rebecca Ruth
Mental; Imagery; Visual; Memory; Logos; Context effect; Nickerson; penny; recognition
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There is much debate in the literature regarding mental imagery: how it is represented in the mind and how faithful it is to the outside world. Studies such as Nickerson and Adams (1979) challenged previous notions regarding how accurate and photo-like our visual memory is, finding that participants had a difficult time recognizing the correct penny drawing from a series of altered versions. The study raised further questions about whether the poor performance was due to problems retrieving the information from memory or whether certain visual information was never initially retained. The present study was designed as an expansion on Nickerson and Adams' (1979) study using corporate logos as the common object to see if people have similar difficulty in recognizing other frequently seen visuals. To examine this question of retention vs. recall, the study investigated the presence of a context effect, which has been shown to aid in recognition tasks. The logos were presented half of the time in a context in which participants may be used to seeing them (e.g. a Pepsi logo on a soda can) and half of the time without a context. Overall, participants performed better than their counterparts in the Nickerson and Adams (1979) study, correctly identifying about 60% of the correct logos, compared to Nickerson and Adams' (1979) 41%. There was a marginally significant improvement in performance from placing the logos in a context (p= 0.08). Results from the study generally support the findings of Nickerson and Adams (1979), though participants displayed a slightly improved faculty for logo recognition. The marginally significant improvement from the context suggests that the problem lies in the recall rather than the retention of the visual information.