Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience
Although memory of episodic associations is generally considered to be recollective in nature, it has been suggested that when stimuli are experienced as a unit, familiarity-related processes might contribute to their subsequent associative recognition. Furthermore, intradomain associations are believed to be unitized more readily than interdomain associations. To assess these claims, we tested associative recognition following two types of pair associate learning. In the unimodal task, stimulus pairs were pictures of common objects, whereas in the cross-modal task, stimulus pairs consisted of an object picture and an unrelated environmental sound. At test, participants discriminated intact from recombined pairs while ERPs were recorded. In the unimodal task only, associative recognition was accompanied by a robust frontal deflection reminiscent of a component commonly interpreted as related to familiarity processes. In contrast, ERP correlates of associative recognition observed at more posterior sites, akin to a component that has been related to recollection, were apparent in both tasks. These findings indicate that retrieval of unimodal associations can be supported by familiarity-related processes that are dissociable from recollective processes required for the retrieval of cross-modal associations.