The Memory State Heuristic: A Formal Model Based on Repeated Recognition Judgments

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The recognition heuristic (RH) theory predicts that, in comparative judgment tasks, if one object is recognized and the other is not, the recognized one is chosen. The memory-state heuristic (MSH) extends the RH by assuming that choices are not affected by recognition judgments per se, but by the memory states underlying these judgments (i.e., recognition certainty, uncertainty, or rejection certainty). Specifically, the larger the discrepancy between memory states, the larger the probability of choosing the object in the higher state. The typical RH paradigm does not allow estimation of the underlying memory states because it is unknown whether the objects were previously experienced or not. Therefore, we extended the paradigm by repeating the recognition task twice. In line with high threshold models of recognition, we assumed that inconsistent recognition judgments result from uncertainty whereas consistent judgments most likely result from memory certainty. In Experiment 1, we fitted 2 nested multinomial models to the data: an MSH model that formalizes the relation between memory states and binary choices explicitly and an approximate model that ignores the (unlikely) possibility of consistent guesses. Both models provided converging results. As predicted, reliance on recognition increased with the discrepancy in the underlying memory states. In Experiment 2, we replicated these results and found support for choice consistency predictions of the MSH. Additionally, recognition and choice latencies were in agreement with the MSH in both experiments. Finally, we validated critical parameters of our MSH model through a cross-validation method and a third experiment.

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