Transfer-Appropriate Processing in Recognition Memory: Perceptual and Conceptual Effects on Recognition Memory Depend on Task Demands

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Abstract

Research examining the importance of surface-level information to familiarity in recognition memory tasks is mixed: Sometimes it affects recognition and sometimes it does not. One potential explanation of the inconsistent findings comes from the ideas of dual process theory of recognition and the transfer-appropriate processing framework, which suggest that the extent to which perceptual fluency matters on a recognition test depends in large part on the task demands. A test that recruits perceptual processing for discrimination should show greater perceptual effects and smaller conceptual effects than standard recognition, similar to the pattern of effects found in perceptual implicit memory tasks. This idea was tested in the current experiment by crossing a levels of processing manipulation with a modality manipulation on a series of recognition tests that ranged from conceptual (standard recognition) to very perceptually demanding (a speeded recognition test with degraded stimuli). Results showed that the levels of processing effect decreased and the effect of modality increased when tests were made perceptually demanding. These results support the idea that surface-level features influence performance on recognition tests when they are made salient by the task demands.

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