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ERIC Number: EJ1086957
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Jan
Pages: 16
Abstractor: As Provided
Reference Count: 29
ISSN: ISSN-0278-7393
Here's Looking at You: Visual Similarity Exacerbates the Moses Illusion for Semantically Similar Celebrities
Davis, Danielle K.; Abrams, Lise
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, v42 n1 p75-90 Jan 2016
When people read questions like "How many animals of each kind did Moses take on the ark?", many mistakenly answer "2" despite knowing that Noah sailed the ark. This "Moses illusion" occurs when names share semantic features. Two experiments examined whether shared "visual" concepts (facial features) exacerbate Moses illusions for celebrity names. Questions contained an unrelated distractor name or a semantic distractor name that was visually similar or dissimilar to the correct target name. Both experiments revealed more Moses illusions occurred for questions containing a visually similar semantic distractor compared with either visually dissimilar or unrelated distractors. Furthermore, presenting a picture of the target (Experiment 1) or the visually similar distractor (Experiment 2) before the question increased accurate detection of the illusion, independent of distractor type. Results challenge theoretical explanations of the Moses illusion as resulting from purely shallow semantic processing and demonstrate the importance of visual information in processing proper names, even when presented in written form.
American Psychological Association. Journals Department, 750 First Street NE, Washington, DC 20002. Tel: 800-374-2721; Tel: 202-336-5510; Fax: 202-336-5502; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research; Tests/Questionnaires
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Florida