Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
The circumstances under which different retrieval processes can support judgments about how long ago events occurred remain a matter of debate, as do the ways in which retrieved information can be employed in support of such judgments. In order to contribute to an understanding of the nature and number of distinct retrieval processes that support time judgments, event-related potentials (ERPs) were acquired during a continuous verbal memory task, where the lag between presentation and re-presentation of words was varied. Participants made judgments of recency (JORs), indicating the number of words that had intervened between presentation and re-presentation. Two spatially and temporally separable ERP effects predicted JORs, and the two effects bore correspondences with ERP modulations that have been linked to the processes of recollection and familiarity, suggesting that both of these processes contributed to JORs. The two effects predicting recency judgments also did so in the same way, with larger effects uniformly predicting shorter lag judgments. In so far as the sizes of the effects index memory strength, these findings are consistent with theoretical accounts of JORs where strength is employed heuristically: The more information recovered, the more recently the event occurred.