Event-related potentials as indirect measures of recognition memory

Johanna C. Van Hooff, Cornelis H.M. Brunia, John J.B. Allen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Event-related potentials (ERPs) were recorded during an auditory word-recognition task to determine whether they can be used as indirect measures of recognition memory, defined as the ability to differentiate learned from unlearned material when no overt recognition response from the subject is required. A modified version of the two-choice reaction time task developed by Allen, Iacono and Danielson was used. In three recognition tasks, administered on two consecutive days, subjects were instructed to indicate recognition of recently learned words. These words were presented along with unlearned words and along with previously learned words which both required a non-recognition response. Recently learned target words as well as previously learned nontarget words elicited a centro-parietal positivity around 500-1000 ms post-stimulus. The size and onset of this late positivity (P300) were affected by the requirement of an overt recognition response. The results suggest that ERPs are sensitive to differences between learned and unlearned words, to some extent independently of the behavioral response. ERPs may therefore be used as indirect measures of recognition memory. In addition, because the present results held for stimuli presented in the auditory modality and because recognition indices were still observed after a one-day interval between learning and testing, this procedure might prove useful in various applications when the integrity of memory is in question.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)15-31
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1996


  • Auditory ERPs
  • Indirect measures
  • Memory
  • P300
  • Recognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


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