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Sensitivity of Reality Monitoring to Fluency: Evidence from Behavioral Performance and Event-Related Potential (ERP) Old/New Effects

Aiqing Nie, Yueyue Xiao, Si Liu, Xiaolei Zhu, Delin Zhang

Department of Psychology and Behavioral Science, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China (mainland)

Med Sci Monit 2019; 25:9490-9498

DOI: 10.12659/MSM.917401

Available online:

Published: 2019-12-12

BACKGROUND: Item memory and source memory are differently processed with both behavioral and event-related potential (ERP) evidence. Reality monitoring, a specific type of source memory, which refers to the ability to differentiate external sources from internal sources, has been drawing much attention. Among factors that have an impact on reality monitoring, fluency has not been well-studied. Therefore, the current study aimed to investigate whether fluency could affect reality monitoring, through observations on both behavioral performance and electrophysiological patterns.
MATERIAL AND METHODS: Adopting ERP techniques, participants were required either to watch the presentation of a name/picture pair, or to imagine a picture for each displayed name, once (low fluency) or twice (high fluency). Later they completed a reality monitoring task of identifying names as perceived, imagined, or novel items. Behavioral performance was measured, and ERP waveforms were recorded.
RESULTS: Behaviorally, high fluency items were faster and more accurately attributed to the sources than low fluency items. ERP waveforms revealed that late positive component (LPC) occurred for all 4 types of items, while imagined items of low fluency did not record a robust FN400 or late frontal old/new effect.
CONCLUSIONS: As results revealed, the factor of fluency does influence reality monitoring in terms of accuracy and responding speed. Meanwhile, for imagined items of low fluency, the absence of FN400 and frontal old/new effect also suggests the sensitivity of reality monitoring to fluency, because these representatives of familiarity-based processing and post-retrieval monitoring are inevitably involved in the process of differentiating internal source from external source.

Keywords: Environmental Monitoring, Memory, Speech Disorders