Pictures generally show superior recognition relative to their verbal labels. This experiment was designed to link this pictorial superiority effect to sensory or meaning codes associated with the two types of symbols. Paired-associate stimuli consisted of simple pictures or of their labels, with list items selected either from the same conceptual category or from different conceptual categories. In addition, schematic or visual similarity among the pictures was either high or low. At two rates of presentation equal amounts of conceptual interference were produced for pictures and their labels. High schematic similarity eliminated the pictorial superiority effects at the slow rate and completely reversed it at the fast rate. These results suggest that the meaning representations for simple pictures and their labels may be identical, and that the pictorial superiority effect is related to the qualitative superiority of the sensory codes for pictures.