Repetition priming affects guessing not familiarity

Richard J. Tunney*, Gordon Fernie

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The claim that recollection and familiarity based memory processes have distinct retrieval mechanisms is based partly on the observation that masked repetition and semantic priming influence estimates of familiarity derived from know responses but have no effect on estimates of recollection derived from remember responses. Close inspection of the experiments on which this claim is based reveal the effect size to be small, potentially the result of a type-2 error, and/ or inflated due to participants not having the opportunity to report guesses. This paper re-evaluates these claims by attempting a partial replication of two such Experiments. Methods: In Experiment 1 participants made remember, know, and guess responses following primed and unprimed target words. In Experiment 2 participants made sure, unsure, and guess following primed and unprimed target words. Results: In Experiment 1 the repetition priming effect occurred only for guess responses and only for unstudied items. In Experiment 2 the priming effect occurred for both unsure and guess responses, but again only for unstudied items. Conclusion: The data are consistent with the view that remembering and knowing do not correspond to confidence ratings; and suggest that contrary to earlier findings, recollection and familiarity do not differ in retrieval mechanisms. As such the effects of repetition priming on subjective reports of remembering should not be cited as evidence for the distinction between recollection and familiarity based memory processes.

Original languageEnglish
Article number40
JournalBehavioral and Brain Functions
Publication statusPublished - 14 Aug 2007

Bibliographical note

© 2007 Tunney and Fernie; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (,
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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