Distinguishing highly confident accurate and inaccurate memory: Insights about relevant and irrelevant influences on memory confidence

Elizabeth F. Chua, Deborah E. Hannula, Charan Ranganath

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

22 Scopus citations


It is generally believed that accuracy and confidence in one's memory are related, but there are many instances when they diverge. Accordingly it is important to disentangle the factors that contribute to memory accuracy and confidence, especially those factors that contribute to confidence, but not accuracy. We used eye movements to separately measure fluent cue processing, the target recognition experience, and relative evidence assessment on recognition confidence and accuracy. Eye movements were monitored during a face-scene associative recognition task, in which participants first saw a scene cue, followed by a forced-choice recognition test for the associated face, with confidence ratings. Eye movement indices of the target recognition experience were largely indicative of accuracy, and showed a relationship to confidence for accurate decisions. In contrast, eye movements during the scene cue raised the possibility that more fluent cue processing was related to higher confidence for both accurate and inaccurate recognition decisions. In a second experiment we manipulated cue familiarity, and therefore cue fluency. Participants showed higher confidence for cue-target associations for when the cue was more familiar, especially for incorrect responses. These results suggest that over-reliance on cue familiarity and under-reliance on the target recognition experience may lead to erroneous confidence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)48-62
Number of pages15
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2012



  • Confidence
  • Eye tracking
  • Metamemory
  • Relational memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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