Recognition Memory: A Review of the Critical Findings and an Integrated Theory for Relating Them

Document Type


Publication Date


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)



The development of formal models has aided theoretical progress in recognition memory research. Here, I review the findings that are critical for testing them, including behavioral and brain imaging results of single-item recognition, plurality discrimination, and associative recognition experiments under a variety of testing conditions. I also review the major approaches to measurement and process modeling of recognition. The review indicates that several extant dual-process measures of recollection are unreliable, and thus they are unsuitable as a basis for forming strong conclusions. At the process level, however, the retrieval dynamics of recognition memory and the effect of strengthening operations suggest that a recall-to-reject process plays an important role in plurality discrimination and associative recognition, but not necessarily in single-item recognition. A new theoretical framework proposes that the contribution of recollection to recognition depends on whether the retrieval of episodic details improves accuracy, and it organizes the models around the construct of efficiency. Accordingly, subjects adopt strategies that they believe will produce a desired level of accuracy in the shortest amount of time. Several models derived from this framework are shown to account the accuracy, latency, and confidence with which the various recognition tasks are performed.

Was this content written or created while at USF?


Citation / Publisher Attribution

Cognitive Psychology, v. 57, issue 4, p. 335-384