Transfer Appropriate Fluency: Encoding and Retrieval Interactions in Fluency-Based Memory Illusions

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Stimuli that are fluently processed are more likely to be called “old” on a recognition memory test compared with less fluently processed stimuli. The goal of the current study was to investigate how the perceived diagnostic value of fluency is affected by a match between encoding and test conditions. During the encoding phase, participants engaged in different tasks designed to reflect different phonological processing requirements. On a later recognition test, the phonological fluency of some of the items was enhanced. The results showed a relationship between the degree of phonological processing carried out during encoding and the degree to which phonological fluency affected recognition memory decisions. Moreover, when both encoding and fluency conditions were manipulated, there was an encoding by retrieval interaction. When the encoding phase involved attending to visual features, perceptual fluency had a larger effect on recognition responses than phonological fluency. Likewise, when encoding focused on phonological features, phonological fluency had a larger influence on recognition than perceptual fluency. Collectively, the results show that fluency-based illusions of recognition memory recognition biases are more likely when there is a match in the attributes emphasized during study and test.

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