Accurate forced-choice recognition without awareness of memory retrieval

Joel L. Voss, Carol L. Baym, Ken A. Paller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations


Recognition confidence and the explicit awareness of memory retrieval commonly accompany accurate responding in recognition tests. Memory performance in recognition tests is widely assumed to measure explicit memory, but the generality of this assumption is questionable. Indeed, whether recognition in nonhumans is always supported by explicit memory is highly controversial. Here we identified circumstances wherein highly accurate recognition was unaccompanied by hallmark features of explicit memory. When memory for kaleidoscopes was tested using a two-alternative forced-choice recognition test with similar foils, recognition was enhanced by an attentional manipulation at encoding known to degrade explicit memory. Moreover, explicit recognition was most accurate when the awareness of retrieval was absent. These dissociations between accuracy and phenomenological features of explicit memory are consistent with the notion that correct responding resulted from experience-dependent enhancements of perceptual fluency with specific stimuli - the putative mechanism for perceptual priming effects in implicit memory tests. This mechanism may contribute to recognition performance in a variety of frequently-employed testing circumstances. Our results thus argue for a novel view of recognition, in that analyses of its neurocognitive foundations must take into account the potential for both (1) recognition mechanisms allied with implicit memory and (2) recognition mechanisms allied with explicit memory.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)454-459
Number of pages6
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'Accurate forced-choice recognition without awareness of memory retrieval'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this