ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2019, Vol. 27 ›› Issue (3): 490-498.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2019.00490

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Investigating the item recognition in associative memory: A unitization perspective

LIU Zejun1, WANG Yujuan2, GUO Chunyan1()   

  1. 1 Beijing Key Laboratory of “Learning & Cognition”, Department of Psychology, Capital Normal University, Beijing 100037, China
    2 Intellectual Property School of Chongqing University of Technology, Chongqing 400054, China
  • Received:2018-01-23 Online:2019-03-15 Published:2019-01-22
  • Contact: GUO Chunyan


Associative memory (item 1 - item 2) has three discrete components: item 1, item 2, and the association between item 1 and item 2. The recognition of item 1 and item 2 is referred to as item recognition, whereas the recognition of the pairing relationship between item1 and item2 is called associative recognition. The dual-process theory posits that both familiarity and recollection can contribute to item recognition, though associative recognition can only be supported by recollection. Nonetheless, many recent studies found otherwise, particularly when the to-be-learned items are perceived as a single unitized representation during the study, familiarity can also contribute to associative recognition. However, very few studies have yet to examine the role of unitization on item recognition in associative memory. Currently, there are two opposing point of views. One is the ‘benefits only’ account, which claims that unitization can increase the associative recognition without affecting the item recognition; the other is the ‘costs and benefits’ account, which claims that the unitization increases the associative recognition at the cost of item recognition. Future studies are needed to investigate the impact of unitization on item recognition in associative memory and its neural mechanisms. Understanding the specific role of unitization in item and associative recognition will help to select appropriate encoding methods for specific memory tasks to improve memory performance.

Key words: associative memory, item recognition, unitization, familiarity, recollection

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