The Relationship between P300 Amplitude and Subsequent Recall for Distinctive Events: Dependence on Type of Distinctiveness Attribute

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Distinctive words elicit the P300 component of the event‐related brain potential, and are also likely to be recalled. Previous studies have shown that the larger the P300 elicited by distinctive words, the more likely it is that those words will be recalled. The present study addressed whether this relationship is affected by the manner in which distinctiveness is induced. Distinctiveness was manipulated either by varying the size of the characters in which a word was displayed, or by surrounding the word with a frame at close or far distance. All distinctiveness attributes resulted in improved recall performance. The words whose size was distinctive elicited a large P300, and P300 amplitude was larger for subsequently recalled words. The frame attributes elicited a small P300, and the amplitude of these P300s was not correlated with subsequent recall performance. Instead, a frontal slow wave was correlated with subsequent recall performance in the far frame group. It is concluded that the relationship between P300 amplitude and subsequent recall depends on the type of distinctiveness attribute, and should therefore not be ascribed to a generalized effect of distinctiveness on memory encoding processes.

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Psychophysiology, v. 37, issue 5, p. 644-661