Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/21663
Appears in Collections:Psychology eTheses
Title: Associative Recognition: Exploring the Contributions of Recollection and Familiarity
Authors: Murray, Jamie G
Supervisor(s): Donaldson, David
Watt, Roger
Keywords: Episodic memory
Recollection
Familiarity
Unitization
Threshold
ERPs
Mid-Frontal old/new effect
Left Parietal old/new effect
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: University of Stirling
Abstract: Episodic memory refers to the storage and retrieval of information about events in our past. According to dual process models, episodic memory is supported by familiarity which refers to the rapid and automatic sense of oldness about a previously encoded stimulus, and recollection which refers to the retrieval of contextual information, such as spatial, temporal or other contextual details that bring a specific item to mind. To be clear, familiarity is traditionally assumed to support recognition of item information, whereas recollection supports the recognition of associative information. Event Related Potential (ERP) studies provide support for dual process models, by demonstrating qualitatively distinct patterns of neural activity associated with familiarity (Mid-Frontal old/new effect) and recollection (Left-Parietal old/new effect). In the current thesis, ERPs were used to address two important questions regarding associative recognition – namely, the function of the neural signal supporting recollection and whether familiarity can contribute to the retrieval of novel associative information. The first series of experiments was aimed at addressing how recollection operates by employing a recently developed continuous source task designed to directly measure the accuracy of retrieval success. To date, the function of recollection has been fiercely debated, with some arguing that recollection reflects the operation of a continuous retrieval process, whereby test cues always elicit some information from memory. Alternatively, recollection may reflect the operation of a thresholded process that allows for retrieval failure, whereby test cues sometimes elicit no information from memory at all. In the current thesis, the Left Parietal effect was found to be sensitive to the precision of memory responses when recollection succeeded, but was entirely absent when recollection failed. The result clarifies the nature of the neural mechanism underlying successful retrieval whilst also providing novel evidence in support of threshold models of recollection. The second series of experiments addressed whether familiarity could contribute to the retrieval of novel associative information. Recent associative recognition studies have suggested that unitization (whereby multi-component stimuli are encoded as a single item rather than as a set of associated parts) can improve episodic memory by increasing the availability of familiarity during retrieval. To date, however, ERP studies have failed to provide any evidence of unitization for novel associations, whereas behavioural support for unitization is heavily reliant on model specific measures such as ROC analysis. Over three separate associative recognition studies employing unrelated word pairs, the magnitude of the Mid-Frontal old/new effect was found to be modulated by encoding instructions designed to manipulate the level of unitization. Importantly, the results also suggest that different encoding strategies designed to manipulate the level of unitization may be more successful than others. Finally, the results also revealed that differences in behavioural performance and modulation of the Mid-Frontal old/new effect between unitized and non-unitized instructions is greater for unrelated compared to related word pairs. In essence, the results suggest that unitization is better suited to learning completely novel associations as opposed to word pairs sharing a pre-existing conceptual relationship. Overall, the data presented in this thesis supports dual process accounts of episodic memory, suggesting that at a neural level of analysis, recollection is both thresholded and variable, whilst also supporting the assumption that familiarity can contribute to successful retrieval of novel associative information. The results have important implications for our current understanding of cognitive decline and the development of behavioural interventions aimed at alleviating associative deficits.
Type: Thesis or Dissertation
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1893/21663

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