Local and global processing biases fail to influence face, object and word recognition

Rebecca Lawson, University of Liverpool

Three studies investigated whether encouraging people to use either global or local processing using the Navon task (Navon, 1977) influenced recognition memory for upright and inverted pictures of faces, objects and words. Contrary to the striking results of Macrae and Lewis (2002), no effect of such cross-task processing biases were found. In particular, encouraging global processing did not improve the recognition of upright faces whilst encouraging local processing failed to improve the recognition of words. These results suggest that using the Navon task to manipulate people’s processing strategy typically does not have a large, consistent effect on recognition memory. Instead, prior performance of an unrelated task may only influence subsequent recognition memory under restricted circumstances. Therefore the cross-task processing bias effect does not provide researchers with a powerful, reliable tool with which to investigate the relative importance of local versus global, configural processing of visual stimuli.

Visual Cognition, (2007), 15, 710-740.