A Remember/Know Examination of Free-recall Reveals Dissociative Roles of Item- and Context-Information over Time

Talya Sadeh, Rani Moran, Yonatan Stern, Yonatan Goshen-Gottstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


It is well-established that the ability to freely recall information is driven by the extent to which the context at encoding is reinstated at retrieval. Still, when asked to judge the subjective quality of one’s memories giving Remember/Know (R/K) judgments, people tend to classify a substantial proportion of recalls as being devoid of context. We suggest that R- and K-recalls differ with regard to their reliance on context- and item-information, with R-recalls driven primarily by contextual-information (e.g., associations evoked by the study-items) and K-recalls driven primarily by information pertaining to the items (e.g., semantic information). Memory was tested both immediately after study and in a final free-recall test conducted ~20 minutes after encoding—a timescale which is akin to real-life events. In line with our predictions, as compared to K-recalls, R-recalls show stronger contextual effects, but similarly strong item-related effects over these timescales. Furthermore, drawing on theories regarding the forgetting of item- and contextual information, we hypothesized and found that R- and K-recalls are differentially affected by the passage of time. Our findings provide several converging pieces of evidence for differential roles of item and contextual information in driving recall and thus highlight the need to extend longstanding theories of free-recall to account for cases in which recall relies less on context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number13493
JournalScientific Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - 10 Sep 2018
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018, The Author(s).


We thank Lilach Leibovitch, Alisa Lurie and Rafael Amram for their help in data collection. T.S. is grateful to the Azrieli Foundation for the award of an Azrieli Fellowship. The study was supported by the ISRAEL SCIENCE FOUNDATION, grant No. 1922/15 to Y.G.G. and grant No. 743/17 to T.S.

FundersFunder number
Israel Science Foundation743/17, 1922/15
Azrieli Foundation


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