Electrophysiological signals associated with fluency of different levels of processing reveal multiple contributions to recognition memory

Bingbing Li, Jason Taylor, Wei Wang, Chuanji Gao, Chunyan Guo

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fluency, if misattributed to an effect of prior exposure, can result in illusory memory. Although it is well established that fluency induced by masked repetition priming leads to increased familiarity, manipulations of conceptual fluency have produced conflicting results, variously affecting familiarity or recollection. Some recent studies have found that masked conceptual priming increases correct recollection (Taylor & Henson, 2012), and the magnitude of this behavioural effect correlates with analogous fMRI BOLD priming effects in brain regions associated with recollection (Taylor, Buratto, & Henson, 2013). However, the neural correlates and time-courses of masked repetition and conceptual priming were not compared directly in previous studies. The present study used event-related potentials (ERPs) to identify and compare the electrophysiological correlates of masked repetition and conceptual priming and investigate how they contribute to recognition memory. Behavioural results were consistent with previous studies: Repetition primes increased familiarity, whereas conceptual primes increased correct recollection. Masked repetition and conceptual priming also decreased the latency of late parietal component (LPC). Masked repetition priming was associated with an early P200 effect and a later parietal maximum N400 effect, whereas masked conceptual priming was only associated with a central-parietal maximum N400 effect. In addition, the topographic distributions of the N400 repetition priming and conceptual priming effects were different. These results suggest that fluency at different levels of processing is associated with different ERP components, and contributes differentially to subjective recognition memory experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1–13
JournalConsciousness and Cognition
Early online date27 May 2017
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017


  • Repetition priming
  • Conceptual priming
  • Fluency
  • Familiarity
  • Recollection


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