The striking similarities between standard, distractor-free, and target-free recognition

Cox, Justin; Dobbins, Ian
August 2011
Memory & Cognition;Aug2011, Vol. 39 Issue 6, p925
Academic Journal
It is often assumed that observers seek to maximize correct responding during recognition testing by actively adjusting a decision criterion. However, early research by Wallace (Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Learning and Memory 4:441-452, ) suggested that recognition rates for studied items remained similar, regardless of whether or not the tests contained distractor items. We extended these findings across three experiments, addressing whether detection rates or observer confidence changed when participants were presented standard tests (targets and distractors) versus 'pure-list' tests (lists composed entirely of targets or distractors). Even when observers were made aware of the composition of the pure-list test, the endorsement rates and confidence patterns remained largely similar to those observed during standard testing, suggesting that observers are typically not striving to maximize the likelihood of success across the test. We discuss the implications for decision models that assume a likelihood ratio versus a strength decision axis, as well as the implications for prior findings demonstrating large criterion shifts using target probability manipulations.


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