The University of Arizona

Asymmetries in Naming and Categorizing Low-Quality Pictures: A Pilot Study of Learners in a Community-Based Adult ESL Class

Amanda Snell


This paper presents the results of a picture-naming and picture-categorization task
incorporating high-quality color images and low-quality black and white images. Research participants—all adults recruited from a beginning-level, community-based English as a Second Language (ESL) class—were asked to perform two tasks: 1) naming all the pictures they saw appear on a computer screen one-by-one, and 2) naming only the pictures which appeared on the screen and belonged to a certain semantic category, such as fruits. In conditions involving high quality pictures, research participants performed similarly on both the naming and categorization tasks, suggesting that the two tasks require equal access to the semantic processing systems. However, in conditions involving low-quality images, participants performed significantly more slowly on the picture-naming task than they did on the picture-categorization task, suggesting that picture-naming may require fuller access to the semantic system in the case of low-quality images. The results of the higher processing cost for picture naming, as well as implications for language teaching, will be discussed in the paper.

Full Text: