Examining the transition of novel information toward familiarity

Amnon Yacoby, Niv Reggev, Anat Maril*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Throughout their lives, humans encounter multiple instances of new information that can be inconsistent with prior knowledge (novel). Over time, the once-novel information becomes integrated into their established knowledge base, shifting from novelty to familiarity. In this study, we investigated the processes by which the first steps of this transition take place. We hypothesized that the neural representations of initially novel items gradually change over the course of repeated presentations, expressing a shift toward familiarity. We further assumed that this shift could be traced by examining neural patterns using fMRI. In two experiments, while being scanned, participants read noun-adjective word pairs that were either consistent or inconsistent with their prior knowledge. Stimuli were repeated 3–6 times within the scans. Employing mass univariate and multivariate similarity analyses, we showed that the neural representations associated with the initial presentation of familiar versus novel objects differed in lateral frontal and temporal regions, the medial prefrontal cortex, and the medial temporal lobe. Importantly, the neural representations of novel stimuli gradually changed throughout repetitions until they became indistinguishable from their respective familiar items. We interpret these findings as indicating that an early phase of familiarization can be completed within a few repetitions. This initial familiarization can then serve as the prerequisite to the integration of novel items into existing knowledge. Future empirical and theoretical works can build on the current findings to develop a comprehensive model of the transition from novelty to familiarity.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number107993
StatePublished - 15 Oct 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier Ltd


  • Encoding
  • Novelty
  • Prior knowledge
  • Repetition
  • Semantic
  • fMRI


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