Recognition memory is thought to be based on two processes, recollection and familiarity. The proposed research will investigate contrasting views of one of these two processes, namely, the recollection process. The question of how best to conceptualize recollection is of fundamental importance to computational models and neuropsychological models of memory. One view, which is by far the most common view, holds that recollection is a threshold process in that whenever it occurs, it carries with it high confidence that an item was seen before. This idea is explicit in some models, but it is also implicit in the thinking that underlies the popular Remember/Know procedure. An alternative view is that recollection is a continuous process (i.e., recollection comes in degrees, including very small degrees). This account is compatible with signal-detection theory, and it holds that recollection can be associated with low, medium or high degrees of confidence (and accuracy), depending on the degree of recollection associated with the test item. The resolution of high-profile debates in the cognitive neuroscience literature hinges to a large extent on a resolution of this question concerning the nature of the recollection process. Behavioral methods, including ROC analysis, relational memory procedures, and variations of the Remember/Know procedure will be used to address this problem. In several of these experiments, the crux of the issue is whether recollection occurs even when accuracy is low, confidence is low, and subjects claim that recollection absent.

Public Health Relevance

Memory deficits are now recognized to be a core feature of several mental illnesses, especially schizophrenia. The methods that are typically used to further our understanding of these memory deficits are almost exclusively based on a model of memory that may not be valid. The proposed work tests that model of memory against an alternative and long-standing model known as signal-detection theory.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)
Research Project (R01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
Cognition and Perception Study Section (CP)
Program Officer
Osborn, Bettina D
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
University of California San Diego
Schools of Arts and Sciences
La Jolla
United States
Zip Code
Mickes, Laura; Seale-Carlisle, Travis M; Wixted, John T (2013) Rethinking Familiarity: Remember/Know Judgments in Free Recall. J Mem Lang 68:333-349
Jang, Yoonhee; Mickes, Laura; Wixted, John T (2012) Three tests and three corrections: comment on Koen and Yonelinas (2010). J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 38:513-23
Ingram, Katherine M; Mickes, Laura; Wixted, John T (2012) Recollection can be weak and familiarity can be strong. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 38:325-39
Squire, Larry R; Wixted, John T (2011) The cognitive neuroscience of human memory since H.M. Annu Rev Neurosci 34:259-88
Mickes, Laura; Hwe, Vivian; Wais, Peter E et al. (2011) Strong memories are hard to scale. J Exp Psychol Gen 140:239-57
Wixted, John T; Mickes, Laura (2010) A continuous dual-process model of remember/know judgments. Psychol Rev 117:1025-54
Mickes, Laura; Johnson, Emily M; Wixted, John T (2010) Continuous recollection versus unitized familiarity in associative recognition. J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn 36:843-63
Wixted, John T; Mickes, Laura; Squire, Larry R (2010) Measuring recollection and familiarity in the medial temporal lobe. Hippocampus 20:1195-205
Wixted, John T; Squire, Larry R (2010) The role of the human hippocampus in familiarity-based and recollection-based recognition memory. Behav Brain Res 215:197-208