People often falsely recognize nonstudied lures that are semantically similar to previously studied words. Behavioral research suggests that such false recognition is based on high semantic overlap between studied items and lures that yield a feeling of familiarity, whereas true recognition is more often associated with the recollection of details. Despite this behavioral evidence for differences between true and false recognition, research measuring brain activity (PET, fMRI, ERP) has not clearly differentiated corresponding differences in brain activity. A median split was used to separate subjects into Good and Poor performers based on their discrimination of studied targets from similar lures. Only Good performers showed late (1000-1500 msec), right frontal event-related brain potentials (ERPs) that were more positive for targets and lures compared with new items. The right frontal differences are interpreted as reflecting postretrieval evaluation processes that were more likely to be engaged by Good than Poor performers. Both Good and Poor performers showed a parietal ERP old/new effect (400-800 msec), but only Poor performers showed a parietal old/lure difference. These results are consistent with the view that the parietal and frontal ERP old/new effects reflect dissociable processes related to recollection.

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