Reduced false recognition in amnesia could be a result of impaired item-specific memory: the relationship between item-specific memory and gist memory.
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It is a common finding that amnesic patients produce fewer false recognitions than healthy controls, and this has led to assumptions that gist memory is damaged in these patients (Schacter et al., 1996, Budson et al., 2000). Two experiments used false recognition paradigms to ascertain whether this result could instead be a consequence of impaired item-specific memory. Experiment 1 aimed to reduce the item-specific memory of healthy adults to reflect that of an amnesic patient, by using an articulatory suppression task, while Experiment 2 aimed to increase the item-specific memory of amnesic patient JY to reflect that of a healthy adult, by bringing her to criterion on the relevant study-lists. Results indicated that when item-specific memory was sufficiently reduced in healthy adults, they produced a similar pattern of results to that found in amnesic patients, and when JY’s item-specific memory was increased, she produced a similar pattern of results to healthy adults. This suggests that the previous assumption that gist memory is damaged in amnesic patients might be flawed. The implications of this are discussed in terms of the relationship between item-specific memory and gist memory.