How long does it take to describe what one sees? The first step using picture description tasks

Mark Latash, Irina L. Mikaelian

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Scopus citations


The study explored the dependences between quantifiable features of a picture and the time it takes to describe it. Six native English speakers and six bilinguals watched pictures presented on the monitor and described them " as quickly and accurately as possible" The bilingual participants performed the test twice, in English and in their native language. The pictures could contain one to six objects. There were four series of trials that differed in the number of characteristics of the objects the participants were instructed to describe. Reaction time showed a modest, close to linear scaling with the number of objects. Both reaction time and speech time were significantly longer for the bilingual participants performing in English as compared to their performance in the native language and to the English speaking participants. The difference in reaction time did not depend on the number of objects. Speech time showed a close to linear scaling with the number of objects within each of the four series. The linear regression coefficient in this relationship increased linearly with the number of characteristics of the objects across all series. The results are discussed in relation to speed-accuracy trade-off and different strategies of picture description.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-385
Number of pages17
JournalHuman Movement Science
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1 2010


All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biophysics
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology

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