Familiarity for Associations? A Test of the Domain Dichotomy Theory

Iain M. Harlow*, Graham MacKenzie, David I. Donaldson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Episodic recognition memory is mediated by functionally separable retrieval processes, notably familiarity (a general sense of prior exposure) and recollection (the retrieval of contextual details), whose relative engagement depends partly on the nature of the information being retrieved. Currently, the specific contribution of familiarity to associative recognition memory (where retrieval of the relationships between pairs of stimuli is required) is not clearly understood. In this study, we tested domain dichotomy theory, which predicts that familiarity should contribute more to associative memory when stimuli are similar (within-domain) than when they are distinct (between-domain). Participants studied stimulus pairs, and at test, discriminated intact from rearranged pairs. Stimuli were either within-domain (name-name or image-image pairs) or between-domain (name-image pairs). Across experiments we used 2 different behavioral measures of familiarity based on receiver operating characteristic curves and a modified remember-know procedure. Both experiments provided evidence that familiarity can contribute to associative recognition; however, familiarity was stronger for between-domain pairs, in direct contrast to the domain dichotomy prediction.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1381-1388
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2010


  • Associative recognition
  • Episodic memory
  • Familiarity
  • Recollection
  • Unitization


Dive into the research topics of 'Familiarity for Associations? A Test of the Domain Dichotomy Theory'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this