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Durham University

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Publication details for Dr Holger Wiese

Komes, J., Schweinberger, S.R. & Wiese, H. (2014). Fluency affects source memory for familiar names in younger and older adults: Evidence from event-related brain potentials. NeuroImage 92: 90-105.

Author(s) from Durham


A current debate in memory research is whether and how the access to source information depends not only on recollection, but on fluency-based processes as well. In three experiments, we used event-related brain potentials (ERPs) to examine influences of fluency on source memory for famous names. At test, names were presented visually throughout, whereas visual or auditory presentation was used at learning. In Experiment 1, source decisions following old/new judgments were more accurate for repeated relative to non-repeated visually and auditorily learned names. ERPs were more positive between 300 and 600 ms for visually learned as compared to both auditorily learned and new names, resembling an N400 priming effect. In Experiment 2, we omitted the old/new decision to more directly test fast-acting fluency effects on source memory. We observed more accurate source judgments for repeated versus non-repeated visually learned names, but no such effect for repeated versus non-repeated auditorily learned names. Again, an N400 effect (300–600 ms) differentiated between visually and auditorily learned names. Importantly, this effect occurred for correct source decisions only. We interpret it as indexing fluency arising from within-modality priming of visually learned names at test. This idea was further supported in Experiment 3, which revealed an analogous pattern of results in older adults, consistent with the assumption of spared fluency processes in older age. In sum, our findings suggest that fluency affects person-related source memory via within-modality repetition priming in both younger and older adults.