Publications & Reports

ERP correlates of source memory: unitized source information increases familiarity-based retrieval.

Rachel A Diana, Wijnand Van den Boom, Andrew P Yonelinas, Charan Ranganath
Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis, 134 Young Hall, One Shields Avenue, Davis, CA 95616, USA.


Source memory tests typically require subjects to make decisions about the context in which an item was encoded and are thought to depend on recollection of details from the study episode. Although it is generally believed that familiarity does not contribute to source memory, recent behavioral studies have suggested that familiarity may also support source recognition when item and source information are integrated, or “unitized,” during study (Diana, Yonelinas, and Ranganath, 2008). However, an alternative explanation of these behavioral findings is that unitization affects the manner in which recollection contributes to performance, rather than increasing familiarity-based source memory. To discriminate between these possibilities, we conducted an event-related potential (ERP) study testing the hypothesis that unitization increases the contribution of familiarity to source recognition. Participants studied associations between words and background colors using tasks that either encouraged or discouraged unitization. ERPs were recorded during a source memory test for background color. The results revealed two distinct neural correlates of source recognition: a frontally distributed positivity that was associated with familiarity-based source memory in the high-unitization condition only and a parietally distributed positivity that was associated with recollection-based source memory in both the high- and low-unitization conditions. The ERP and behavioral findings provide converging evidence for the idea that familiarity can contribute to source recognition, particularly when source information is encoded as an item detail.


  • Journal: Brain Research
  • Published: 07/01/2011
  • Volume: 1367
  • Pagination: 278-286