Test position effects on hit and false alarm rates in recognition memory for painting and words




Fallow, Kaitlyn M.
Lindsay, D. Stephen

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When old/new recognition memory is tested with equal numbers of studied and non-studied items and no rewards or instructions that favour one response over the other, there is no obvious reason for response bias. In line with this, Canadian undergraduates have shown, on average, a neutral response bias when we tested them on recognition of common English words. By contrast, most subjects we have tested on recognition of richly detailed images have shown a conservative bias: they more often erred by missing a studied image than by judging a nonstudied image as studied. Here, in an effort to better understand these materials-based bias effects (MBBEs), we examined changes in hit and false alarm (FA) rates (and in sensitivity and bias) from the first to fourth quartile of a recognition memory test in eight experiments in which undergraduates studied words and/or images of paintings. Response bias for images tended to increase across quartiles, whereas bias for words showed no consistent pattern across quartiles. This pattern could be described as an increase in the MBBE over the course of the test, but the underlying patterns for hits and FAs are not easily reconciled with this interpretation. Hit rates decreased over the course of the test for both materials types, with that decline tending to be steeper for images than words. For words, FA rates tended to increase across quartiles, whereas for paintings FA rates did not increase across quartiles. We discuss implications of these findings for theoretical accounts of the MBBE.


Justin Kantner developed this line of work (with D.S.L.), coordinated data collection for Experiments 1-7, and was instrumental in efforts to organize data and other research materials for further use. We thank Justin Kantner, Caren M. Rotello, and Michael E. J. Masson for feedback on draft versions of this manuscript, and Jamie-Lee Barden for assistance with proofreading and formatting. We also acknowledge the contributions of a number of former research assistants and Honours students to the original data collection process for these studies, including Graeme Austin, Emily Cameron, Jordanna Freeman, Tiffany Hannan, Sarah Kraeutner, Caitlin Malli, Mayumi Okamoto, Priya Rosenberg, and Joe Savidge.



Fallow, K. M., & Lindsay, D. S. (2021). Test position effects on hit and false alarm rates in recognition memory for paintings and words. PsyArXiv. https://doi.org/10.31234/osf.io/qgrb6