Recognition memory ROCs for item and associative information: the contribution of recollection and familiarity

Mem Cognit. 1997 Nov;25(6):747-63. doi: 10.3758/bf03211318.


Receiver-operating characteristics (ROCs) were examined in three recognition memory experiments. ROCs for item information (i.e., was this word presented?) were found to be curvilinear. However, ROCs for associative information (i.e., were these two words presented together?) were found to be linear. The results are in agreement with the predictions of a dual-process model that assumes that recognition judgments are based on familiarity and recollection. Familiarity reflects the assessment of a continuous strength dimension and is well described as a signal detection process, whereas recollection reflects the retrieval of qualitative information about the study episode and behaves like a discrete threshold process. The results showed that memory judgments about items relied on a combination of recollection and familiarity, but that judgments about associations relied primarily on recollection. Further examination of the associative ROCs suggested that subjects were able to recollect that old pairs of items were in the study list, and, under some conditions, that new pairs were not in the study list.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Memory*
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Theoretical
  • ROC Curve
  • Reference Values