Examining Cultural Differences in Recognition Memory Response Bias: An Extension of the MBBE




Hawily, Majd Z

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According to signal detection theory, people tested on an old/new recognition memory test adopt a liberal, conservative, or neutral response criterion. Several prior studies in our lab demonstrated that subjects showed a clear conservative bias when presented with complex images (e.g., paintings, photographs of scenes) as stimuli. When stimuli were English words, bias tended to be liberal or neutral. The reasons for these materials-based differences in response bias remain ambiguous. Our efforts have focused on understanding response bias variation across materials and individuals. Specifically, we have explored whether Canadian and Japanese participants show differences in response bias for new materials called “diffeomorphs”. We conducted an earlier study with Lebanese participants with a smaller sample and materials size that served as a pilot study for our later studies. The materials-based bias effect cannot be applied to all visual stimuli because, even though both pictures and diffeomorphs are visual stimuli, the response bias for each is different. For example, we found that while Japanese elicit a conservative bias for diffeomorphs, Canadians have a neutral response bias. Besides the observed cross-cultural difference in response bias, this work refuted the hypothesis that novelty, colorfulness, and richness are behind the MBBE. It seemed that neither the semantics (line drawings) nor the colorfulness (diffeomorphs) of the stimuli appear to generate a bias towards conservatism. The MBBE and its cross-cultural generalization have been better understood because of the fresh insights offered by this thesis.



Recognition memory, Response bias, Cross-cultural Psychology