P300 and Recall in an Incidental Memory Paradigm

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In previous research Karis, Fabiani, and Donchin (1984) found a relationship between the amplitude of the P300s elicited by words and subsequent recall performance. Words later recalled elicited larger P300s than words later not recalled. However, this relationship was dependent on the mnemonic strategies used by the subjects. There was a strong relationship between P300 amplitude and recall when rote rehearsal strategies were used, but when subjects used elaborative strategies the relationship between P300 amplitude and recall was not evident. In the present experiment we employed an incidental memory paradigm to reduce the use of rehearsal strategies. An “oddball’ task consisting of a series of names was presented, and subjects were required to count either the male or the female names. Event‐related brain potentials were recorded to the presentation of each name. Following the oddball task, subjects were asked, unexpectedly, to recall as many names as possible. The names that were recalled had elicited, on their initial presentation, larger P300s than names not recalled. Thus, these results confirm our hypothesis: when elaborative rehearsal strategies are not used, the relationship between P300 and memory emerges more consistently. Our data provide support for a “context updating’ hypothesis of the functional significance of the P300.

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Psychophysiology, v. 23, issue 3, p. 298-308