Comparing Recollection and Nonrecollection Memory States for Recall of General Knowledge: A Nontrivial Pursuit

Rosemary S. Pereverseff, Glen E. Bodner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Based on the classic distinction between semantic and episodic memory, people answer general-knowledge questions by querying their semantic memory. And yet, an appeal of trivia games is the variety of memory experiences they arouse—including the recollection of episodic details. We report the first in-depth exploration of the memory states that arise for recalled answers to general-knowledge questions. In 2 experiments, participants classified their answers as learning memory or related memory forms of recollection, as feels familiar or just know forms of nonrecollection, or as a guess. A recollection state was reported for nearly half of the correct answers. Learning memory, related memory, and just know states showed similarly high accuracy and confidence—whereas the feels familiar state was much lower. The differences between familiarity and knowing highlight the importance of distinguishing these oft-conflated states. Our study establishes that episodic memory often contributes to retrieval of general-knowledge, and that the memory states arising during retrieval can be diagnostic of accuracy. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2020 APA, all rights reserved)

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2207-2225
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2020


  • Episodic versus semantic memory
  • General knowledge
  • Memory states
  • Recall
  • Recollection versus knowing versus familiarity


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