Processing fluency and recognition memory: Masked priming effects on familiarity and recollection (Speaker: Dr Jason Taylor)

Hills 1.21
Life and Environmental Sciences, Research
Friday 30th May 2014 (13:15-14:30)
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A Language and Cognition seminar

Speaker: Dr Jason Taylor

It is well established that recent exposure to a word can increase fluency of processing on subsequent encounters with the same or a similar word; a phenomenon known as (long-term) priming. 

Although generally considered the domain of implicit memory, this increase in fluency due to prior exposure could also serve as a memory signal to inform explicit memory judgements. Indeed, several studies, beginning with Jacoby & Whitehouse (1989), have shown that a memory illusion of sorts can be induced by manipulating the fluency of recognition memory test cues: Masked (immediate) repetition priming of test cues increases the likelihood of an ‘old’ response, whether the test word was studied previously or not. 

Subsequent work has shown that this Jacoby-Whitehouse illusion is driven by an increase in familiarity, the feeling of knowing that an item has been encountered previously, rather than recollection, for which retrieval of study context is necessary. It is unclear, however, at which stage of processing (orthographic/lexical/semantic) this increase in fluency must occur in order to be interpreted as familiarity. 

I will present some of our recent work showing that: (i) Whereas masked repetition priming of test cues increases familiarity of both studied and unstudied words, masked conceptual priming of test cues increases correct recollection of studied words only; (ii) This conceptual priming effect on recollection is sensitive to list context; and (iii) In brain regions associated with recollection, neural and behavioural measures of conceptual priming are correlated across subjects. 

The implications of these findings for the nature of familiarity and recollection, and the role of fluency in recognition memory judgements, will be discussed.