Intact conceptual priming in the absence of declarative memory

D. A. Levy, C. E.L. Stark, Larry R. Squire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

82 Scopus citations


Priming is an unconscious (nondeclarative) form of memory whereby identification or production of an item is improved by an earlier encounter. It has been proposed that declarative memory and priming might be related - for example, that conceptual priming results in more fluent processing, thereby providing a basis for familiarity judgments. In two experiments, we assessed conceptual priming and recognition memory across a 5-min interval in 5 memory-impaired patients. All patients exhibited fully intact priming in tests of both free association (study tent; at test, provide an association to canvas) and category verification (study lemon; at test, decide: Is lemon a type of fruit?). Yet the 2 most severely amnesic patients performed at chance on matched tests of recognition memory. These findings count against the notion that conceptual priming provides feelings of familiarity that can support accurate recognition judgments. We suggest that priming is inaccessible to conscious awareness and does not influence declarative memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)680-686
Number of pages7
JournalPsychological Science
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2004
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by the Medical Research Service of the Department of Veterans Affairs, National Institute of Mental Health Grant MH24600, and the Metropolitan Life Foundation. We thank Peter Bayley, Jeffrey Gold, Jennifer Frascino, and Leah Swalley for assistance.


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