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Psychon Bull Rev. 2002 Sep;9(3):575-82.

Dissociating familiarity from recollection in human recognition memory: different rates of forgetting over short retention intervals.

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


Two functionally distinct forms of recognition memory have been identified in human and nonhuman species-the ability to recollect qualitative information about previous events, and the ability to differentiate between familiar and novel stimuli. Separate dual-process theories have been developed in the animal and human literatures to account for these findings. However, it is not clear whether these theories describe the same two underlying memory processes. On the basis of animal studies of medial temporal lobe function, familiarity is expected to exhibit disproportionately fast forgetting compared with recollection over short retention intervals. We tested this prediction in healthy human subjects by examining recognition forgetting rates across a range of 8-32 intervening items and found significant forgetting in the accuracy of familiarity-based discriminations and no evidence of forgetting in the accuracy of recollection-based discriminations. In agreement with the results from nonhuman species, the present results indicate that item familiarity decreases more rapidly than recollection over short retention intervals.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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