An enquiry into the process of categorization of pictures and words

Madhubalan Viswanathan, Terry L. Childers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This paper reports a series of experiments conducted to study the categorization of pictures and words. Whereas some studies reported in the past have found a picture advantage in categorization, other studies have yielded no differences between pictures and words. This paper used an experimental paradigm designed to overcome some methodological problems to examine picture-word categorization. The results of one experiment were consistent with an advantage for pictures in categorization. To identify the source of the picture advantage in categorization, two more experiments were conducted. Findings suggest that semantic relatedness may play an important role in the categorization of both pictures and words. We explain these findings by suggesting that pictures simultaneously access both their concept and visually salient features whereas words may initially access their concept and may subsequently activate features. Therefore, pictures have an advantage in categorization by offering multiple routes to semantic processing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)267-287
Number of pages21
JournalPerceptual and motor skills
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Sensory Systems


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