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Psychon Bull Rev. 2000 Mar;7(1):26-48.

Accounts of the confidence-accuracy relation in recognition memory.

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Department of Psychology, Indiana University, Bloomington 47405, USA.


Confidence and accuracy, while often considered to tap the same memory representation, are often found to be only weakly correlated (e.g., Bothwell, Deffenbacher, & Brigham, 1987; Deffenbacher, 1980). There are at least two possible (nonexclusive) reasons for this weak relation. First, it may be simply due to noise of one sort or another; that is, it may come about because of both within- and between-subjects statistical variations that are partially uncorrelated for confidence measures on the one hand and accuracy measures on the other. Second, confidence and accuracy may be uncorrelated because they are based, at least in part, on different memory representations that are affected in different ways by different independent variables. We propose a general theory that is designed to encompass both of these possibilities and, within the context of this theory, we evaluate effects of four variables--degree of rehearsal, study duration, study luminance, and test luminance--in three face recognition experiments. In conjunction with our theory, the results allow us to begin to identify the circumstances under which confidence and accuracy are based on the same versus different sources of information in memory. The results demonstrate the conditions under which subjects are quite poor at monitoring their memory performance, and are used to extend cue utilization theories to the domain of face recognition.

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