Cue quality and criterion setting in recognition memory

Chris Kent*, Koen Lamberts, Richard Patton

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
281 Downloads (Pure)


Previous studies on how people set and modify decision criteria in old-new recognition tasks (in which they have to decide whether or not a stimulus was seen in a study phase) have almost exclusively focused on properties of the study items, such as presentation frequency or study list length. In contrast, in the three studies reported here, we manipulated the quality of the test cues in a scene-recognition task, either by degrading through Gaussian blurring (Experiment 1) or by limiting presentation duration (Experiment 2 and 3). In Experiments 1 and 2, degradation of the test cue led to worse old-new discrimination. Most importantly, however, participants were more liberal in their responses to degraded cues (i.e., more likely to call the cue “old”), demonstrating strong within-list, item-by-item, criterion shifts. This liberal response bias toward degraded stimuli came at the cost of increasing the false alarm rate while maintaining a constant hit rate. Experiment 3 replicated Experiment 2 with additional stimulus types (words and faces) but did not provide accuracy feedback to participants. The criterion shifts in Experiment 3 were smaller in magnitude than Experiments 1 and 2 and varied in consistency across stimulus type, suggesting, in line with previous studies, that feedback is important for participants to shift their criteria.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)757-769
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number5
Early online date2 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2018

Structured keywords

  • Memory


  • Criterion setting
  • Cue quality
  • Mirror effect
  • Recognition
  • Signal detection theory


Dive into the research topics of 'Cue quality and criterion setting in recognition memory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this