Three regularities of recognition memory: the role of bias

Andrew Hilford, Laurence T. Maloney, Murray Glanzer, Kisok Kim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A basic assumption of Signal Detection Theory is that decisions are made on the basis of likelihood ratios. In a preceding paper, Glanzer, Hilford, and Maloney (Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 16, 431–455, 2009) showed that the likelihood ratio assumption implies that three regularities will occur in recognition memory: (1) the Mirror Effect, (2) the Variance Effect, (3) the normalized Receiver Operating Characteristic (z-ROC) Length Effect. The paper offered formal proofs and computational demonstrations that decisions based on likelihood ratios produce the three regularities. A survey of data based on group ROCs from 36 studies validated the likelihood ratio assumption by showing that its three implied regularities are ubiquitous. The study noted, however, that bias, another basic factor in Signal Detection Theory, can obscure the Mirror Effect. In this paper we examine how bias affects the regularities at the theoretical level. The theoretical analysis shows: (1) how bias obscures the Mirror Effect, not the other two regularities, and (2) four ways to counter that obscuring. We then report the results of five experiments that support the theoretical analysis. The analyses and the experimental results also demonstrate: (1) that the three regularities govern individual, as well as group, performance, (2) alternative explanations of the regularities are ruled out, and (3) that Signal Detection Theory, correctly applied, gives a simple and unified explanation of recognition memory data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1646-1664
Number of pages19
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015


  • Bias
  • Likelihood ratio
  • Recognition memory
  • Signal detection theory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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