Abstract

The quantity and nature of the processes underlying recognition memory remains an open question. A majority of behavioral, neuropsychological, and brain studies have suggested that recognition memory is supported by two dissociable processes: recollection and familiarity. It has been conversely argued, however, that recollection and familiarity map onto a single continuum of mnemonic strength and hence that recognition memory is mediated by a single process. Previous electrophysiological studies found marked dissociations between recollection and familiarity, which have been widely held as corroborating the dual-process account. However, it remains unknown whether a strength interpretation can likewise apply for these findings. Here we describe an ERP study, using a modified remember–know (RK) procedure, which allowed us to control for mnemonic strength. We find that ERPs of high and low mnemonic strength mimicked the electrophysiological distinction between R and K responses, in a lateral positive component (LPC), 500–1000 msec poststimulus onset. Critically, when contrasting strength with RK experience, by comparing weak R to strong K responses, the electrophysiological signal mapped onto strength, not onto subjective RK experience. Invoking the LPC as support for dual-process accounts may, therefore, be amiss.

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