Rethinking familiarity: Remember/Know judgments in free recall

Laura Mickes, Travis Seale-Carlisle, John Wixted

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although frequently used with recognition, a few studies have used the Remember/Know procedure with free recall. In each case, participants gave Know judgments to a significant number of recalled items (items that were presumably not remembered on the basis of familiarity). What do these Know judgments mean? We investigated this issue using a source memory/free-recall procedure. For each word that was recalled, participants were asked to (a) make a confidence rating on a 5-point scale, (b) make a Remember/Know judgment, and (c) recollect a source detail. The large majority of both Remember judgments and Know judgments were made with high confidence and high accuracy, but source memory was nevertheless higher for Remember judgments than for Know judgments. These source memory results correspond to what is found using recognition, and they raise the possibility that Know judgments in free recall identify the cue-dependent retrieval of item-only information from an episodic memory search set. In agreement with this idea, we also found that the temporal dynamics of free recall were similar for high-confidence Remember and high-confidence Know judgments (as if both judgments reflected retrieval from the same search set). If Know judgments in free recall do in fact reflect the episodic retrieval of item-only information, it seems reasonable to suppose that the same might be true of high-confidence Know judgments in recognition. If so, then a longstanding debate about the role of the hippocampus in recollection and familiarity may have a natural resolution.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Memory and Language
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Familiarity
  • Recognition
  • Recollection
  • Recall

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