Not all sources of familiarity are created equal: the case of word frequency and repetition in episodic recognition
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Low-frequency (LF) words produce higher hit rates and lower false alarm rates than high-frequency (HF) words. This word frequency mirror pattern has been interpreted within dual-process models of recognition, which assume the contributions of a slower recollective process and a relatively fast-acting familiarity process. In the present experiments, recollection and familiarity were placed in opposition using Jacoby, L. L., Journal of Memory and Language, 30, 513-541 (1991), two-list exclusion paradigm with HF and LF words. Exclusion errors to LF words exceeded those to HF words at fast deadlines, whereas the reverse occurred at slow deadlines. In Experiments 2 and 3, false alarms to HF nonpresented lures were higher than to LF nonpresented lures, indicating the use of baseline familiarity for totally new items. Combined, these results indicate that in addition to baseline familiarity and recollection, a third process involving the assessment of a relative change in familiarity is involved in recognition performance. Both relative changes in familiarity and recollection processes have distinct time courses and are engaged when there is diagnostic list information available, whereas baseline familiarity is used when there is no diagnostic information available (e.g., for nonpresented lure items).
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