Dual-process theory and signal-detection theory of recognition memory

Psychol Rev. 2007 Jan;114(1):152-76. doi: 10.1037/0033-295X.114.1.152.


Two influential models of recognition memory, the unequal-variance signal-detection model and a dual-process threshold/detection model, accurately describe the receiver operating characteristic, but only the latter model can provide estimates of recollection and familiarity. Such estimates often accord with those provided by the remember-know procedure, and both methods are now widely used in the neuroscience literature to identify the brain correlates of recollection and familiarity. However, in recent years, a substantial literature has accumulated directly contrasting the signal-detection model against the threshold/detection model, and that literature is almost unanimous in its endorsement of signal-detection theory. A dual-process version of signal-detection theory implies that individual recognition decisions are not process pure, and it suggests new ways to investigate the brain correlates of recognition memory.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Memory*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Psychological Theory*
  • Psychology / methods
  • Psychology / statistics & numerical data
  • ROC Curve
  • Recognition, Psychology*
  • Signal Detection, Psychological*