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Word frequency and receiver operating characteristic curves in recognition memory: evidence for a dual-process interpretation.
Dual-process models of the word-frequency mirror effect posit that low-frequency words are recollected more often than high-frequency words, producing the hit rate differences in the word-frequency effect, whereas high-frequency words are more familiar, producing the false-alarm-rate differences. In this pair of experiments, the authors demonstrate that the analysis of receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curves provides critical information in support of this interpretation. Specifically, when participants were required to discriminate between studied nouns and their plurality reversed complements, the ROC curve was accurately described by a threshold model that is consistent with recollection-based recognition. Further, the plurality discrimination ROC curves showed characteristics consistent with the interpretation that participants recollected low-frequency items more than high-frequency items.