Recognition memory vs. source memory: A comparison of their time-course in a speed-accuracy trade-off paradigm
The retrieval speed and strength of recognition memory and source memory were compared and contrasted by using a response-signal speed-accuracy trade-off (SAT) paradigm. There were two goals in this study; to test a popular assumption that recognition memory becomes available before source memory and to demonstrate a potential danger in relying upon typical source monitoring tasks. Unlike a typical source monitoring task in which recognition and source memory are assessed simultaneously, we tested recognition and source memory separately (Experiments 2-4). In the pure source monitoring tasks, participants are required to focus on a single source condition and indicate whether or not each probe has been studied under that condition. There are three major findings in this study. First, the result in Experiment 2 showed no difference in retrieval dynamics between the two types of memory. This indicates that the common assumption proposed above may not always hold. With the novel pure source monitoring task, Experiment 2 demonstrated that recognition memory and source memory show the same retrieval speed. Secondly, findings contradicting results of the typical source monitoring tasks were observed in two ways. In terms of retrieval strength, Experiment 3 showed that memory strength in a pure source monitoring task was stronger than in the recognition task (the source memory superiority effect). In terms of retrieval dynamics, Experiment 1 with the typical task showed earlier accessibility of recognition memory as opposed to source memory while Experiment 2 with the novel procedure showed no difference in retrieval speed between the two types of memory. These two results question the general assumption of typical source monitoring tasks which assume that source memory is a subset of recognition memory and therefore, recognition memory must always be better than source memory. Finally, matching stimuli between study and test was more likely to speed up the recognition process than the source monitoring process (Experiment 4). In summary, the results in this study call into question (1) the generality of the common assumption that recognition memory is accessed before source memory, and (2) the validity of the typical source monitoring procedure.