What makes recognition without awareness appear to be elusive? Strategic factors that influence the accuracy of guesses

Joel L. Voss, Ken A. Paller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Various factors could conceivably promote the accuracy of guesses during a recognition test. Two that we identified in previous studies are forced-choice testing format and high perceptual similarity between the repeat target and novel foil. In restricted circumstances, the relative perceptual fluency of the target can be compared with that of the foil and used as a reliable cue to guide accurate responses that occur without explicit retrieval - a phenomenon we referred to as "implicit recognition." In this issue, Jeneson and colleagues report a failure to replicate accurate guesses and also a tendency on the part of subjects to hazard guesses infrequently, even though testing circumstances were very similar to those that we used. To resolve this discrepancy, we developed a simple manipulation to encourage either guessing or confident responding. Encouraging guessing increased both the prevalence of guesses and the accuracy of guesses in a recognition test, relative to when confident responding was encouraged. When guessing was encouraged, guesses were highly accurate (as in our previous demonstrations of implicit recognition), whereas when confident responding was encouraged, guesses were at chance levels (as in Jeneson and colleagues' data). In light of a substantial literature showing high accuracy despite low confidence in certain circumstances, we infer that both the prevalence and accuracy of guessing can be influenced by whether subjects adopt guessing-friendly strategies. Our findings thus help to further characterize conditions likely to promote implicit recognition based on perceptual fluency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)460-468
Number of pages9
JournalLearning and Memory
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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