Explicit memory for unattended words: The importance of being in the "no"

Yaakov Hoffman, Oded Bein, Anat Maril*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Recognition tests in which participants indicate whether they recognize items using binary yes/no response options have typically yielded "yes" responses at equal rates for unattended old items and new items. Because most responses to unattended stimuli in such tests are "no" responses, we reasoned that a closer examination of "no" responses might reveal memory for unattended items. We modified a classic paradigm to allow participants to indicate high and low levels of confidence in their responses. As in earlier studies, the overall proportion of "yes" responses did not differ between unattended old items and new items. However, there was a crossover effect in the "no" responses: More high-confidence "no" responses were given for new items than for unattended old items, whereas more low-confidence "no" responses were given for unattended old items than for new items. These results indicate explicit memory for unattended material presented under high perceptual load. Our findings suggest that the null effects obtained in previous studies may not have stemmed from failures of perception or memory, but rather may have been due to insufficiently sensitive memory assessment.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1490-1493
Number of pages4
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by The Israel Science Foundation (Grant 350/10 to A. M.).


  • attention
  • memory


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