Guessing Strategies, Aging, and Bias Effects in Perceptual Identification

Consciousness and Cognition 5 (4):463-499 (1996)
Abstract
In the typical single-stimulus perceptual identification task, accuracy is improved by prior study of test words, a repetition priming benefit. There is also a cost, inasmuch as previously studied words are likely to be produced as responses if the test word is orthographically similar but not identical to a studied word. In two-alternative forced-choice perceptual identification, a test word is flashed and followed by two alternatives, one of which is the correct response. When the two alternatives are orthographically similar, test words identical to previously studied items are identified more accurately than new words but tests words orthographically similar to studied words are identified less accurately than new words . Ratcliff and McKoon argue that these are bias effects that arise in the decision stage of word identification. We report five experiments that examined the alternative hypothesis that these bias effects arise from postperceptual guessing strategies. In single-stimulus perceptual identification, repetition priming benefits were equally great for young and older adults who claimed to use deliberate guessing strategies and those who did not . In contrast, only groups of young and older people who claimed to deliberately guess studied words in a two-alternative forced-choice task showed reliable benefits and costs. Costs and benefits were abolished in the two-alternative forced-choice task when a very long study list was used, presumably because the increased retrieval burden made the use of deliberate guessing strategies less attractive . Under conditions similar to those of Experiment 3, repetition priming was observed in single-stimulus perceptual identification . These results are consistent with the view that costs and benefits in the forced-choice perceptual identification task arise from deliberate guessing strategies but that those in the single-stimulus task do not. The possibility that the observed relationship between strategy reports and priming effects reflects erroneous postexperimental assessments of strategies by participants is also considered
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