Event-related brain potentials were recorded from subjects as they attempted to identify words displayed tachistoscopically. Words that had also been presented a few minutes earlier in a different context were identified more often than were words that had not been presented before. This priming effect was observed for words initially seen in an imagery task requiring size estimations as well as for words initially seen in an orthographic task requiring letter counting. Unlike priming, recall and recognition were much better for words repeated from the imagery task than from the orthographic task. Brain potentials elicited during word identification also differed as a function of task. Based on these differences, a potential from 500 to 800 msec was interpreted as an index of recollection processes. Earlier potentials may have indexed processing related to priming. These effects thus provide measures of the hypothetical processes underlying memory performance and demonstrate that recollection and priming are associated with distinct neural events.

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