Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2010

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Psychology & Neuroscience

First Advisor

Tim Curran

Second Advisor

Albert Kim

Third Advisor

Akira Miyake


In a dual-process framework, two processes are involved in successful recognition memory: recollection involves the retrieval of specific information from the study episode, and familiarity supports recognition without remembering additional episodic details. The differences between these processes have been examined using patterns of activity in the electroencephalogram (EEG) correlated with behavior. Event-related potentials (ERPs) dissociate these recognition memory processes, specifically with an early (approximately 300-500 ms) frontal effect relating to familiarity (the FN400) and a later parietal (500-800 ms) effect relating to recognition. It has been debated whether source information for a studied item (i.e., contextual associations from when the item was previously encountered) is only accessible through recollection, or whether familiarity can contribute to successful source recognition. Importantly, prior research has shown that while familiarity can assist in perceptual source monitoring when the source attribute is an intrinsic property of the item (e.g., an object's surface color), only one prior study has demonstrated its contribution to recognizing extrinsic (unrelated) source associations. Perceptual and conceptual source associations were examined in three experiments involving memory judgments for pictures of common objects. In Experiment 1, source information was arbitrary perceptual associations presented visually (screen side and frame color). Results were inconsistent with the idea that only recollection supports the recognition of correct source information: the FN400 ERP component was significantly different between trials that had correct and incorrect source judgments. Source information in Experiment 2 was defined according to the conceptual encoding task completed during the study lists (size and animacy judgments); the FN400 did not differ between correct and incorrect source monitoring. Experiment 3 combined the perceptual and conceptual source aspects of the first two experiments, and behavioral analyses support the results of the first two experiments. Overall, the results suggest that familiarity's contribution to source monitoring depends on the type of source information being remembered. The familiarity process is more likely to successfully contribute to source recognition when the attributes are perceptually defined than when they are conceptual, and familiarity can successfully monitor extrinsic sources.