The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that requiring people to verbally describe a target face from memory facilitates their subsequent recognition when their memory for the target is poor and interferes with recognition when such memory is strong. In Experiment 1, a target face was presented to participants for 30 s or 100 s under a nominal task instruction, and they incidentally familiarized themselves with it. Verbalization increased the rate of correct recognition only when the target was presented for 30 s and the performance of control participants was poor. In Experiment 2, participants observed a target without instruction for intentional learning or other nominal instruction, in a more ecologically valid context. Recognition performance was poor for control participants and verbalization increased the rate of correct recognition. These results appear to support the hypothesis. The implications for the identification of persons by eyewitnesses are discussed.
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