Associative recognition processes are modulated by the semantic unitizability of memoranda

Roni Tibon, Nurit Gronau-Bitan, Anna Lena Scheuplein, Axel Mecklinger, Daniel A. Levy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although memory of episodic associations is generally considered to be recollective in nature, it has been suggested that when stimuli are experienced as a unit, familiarity processes might contribute to their subsequent associative recognition. To investigate the effect of semantic relatedness during episodic encoding on the processes of retrieval of associative information, we had participants interactively encode pairs of object pictures, vertically arranged so as to suggest a functional or configural relationship between them. Half the pairs were independently judged to be of related objects (e.g., a lamp over a table) and half of unrelated objects (e.g., a key-ring over an apple). At test, participants discriminated between intact, recombined, and new pairs while event related potentials (ERPs) were recorded. In an early ERP marker of retrieval success generally associated with familiarity processes, differences related to associative memory only emerged for related pairs, while differences associated with item memory emerged for both related and unrelated pairs. In contrast, in a later ERP effect associated with recollection, differences related to associative memory emerged for both related and unrelated pairs. These findings may indicate that retrieval of episodic associations formed between two semantically related visual stimuli can be supported by familiarity-related processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-31
Number of pages13
JournalBrain and Cognition
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the German-Israeli Foundation for Scientific Research and Development Grant 1083-5.4/2010 to A.M. and D.A.L. We thank Rotem Amar, Anna Izoutcheev, Yam Goddard, and Nava Traschanski for assistance with stimulus preparation and data collection, and David Anaki for facilitating the analyses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Elsevier Inc.


  • ERP
  • Episodic memory
  • Familiarity
  • Recollection
  • Semantic memory
  • Unitization


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