The hippocampal theta rhythm is a prominent oscillation in the field potential observed throughout the hippocampus as a rat investigates stimuli in the environment. A recent computational model [Hasselmo, M. E., Bodelon, C., & Wyble, B. P. (2002a). A proposed function for hippocampal theta rhythm: separate phases of encoding and retrieval enhance reversal of prior learning. Neural Computation, 14, 793-817. Neuromodulation, theta rhythm and rat spatial navigation. Neural Networks, 15, 689-707] suggested that the theta rhythm allows the hippocampal formation to alternate rapidly between conditions that promote memory encoding (strong synaptic input from entorhinal cortex to areas CA3 and CA1) and conditions that promote memory retrieval (strong synaptic input from CA3 to CA1). That model predicted that the preferred theta phase of CA1 spiking should differ for information being encoded versus information being retrieved. In the present study, the spiking activity of CA1 pyramidal cells was recorded while rats performed either an odor-cued delayed nonmatch-to-sample recognition memory test or an object recognition memory task based on the animal's spontaneous preference for novelty. In the test period of both tasks, the preferred theta phase exhibited by CA1 pyramidal cells differed between moments when the rat inspected repeated (match) and non-repeated (nonmatch) items. Also in the present study, additional modeling work extended the previous model to address the mean phase of CA1 spiking associated with stimuli inducing varying levels of retrieval relative to encoding, ranging from novel nonmatch stimuli with no retrieval to highly familiar repeated stimuli with extensive retrieval. The modeling results obtained here demonstrated that the experimentally observed phase differences are consistent with different levels of CA3 synaptic input to CA1 during recognition of repeated items.