Like all probabilistic decisions, recognition memory judgments are based on inferences about the strength and quality of stimulus familiarity. In recent articles, B. W. A. Whittlesea and J. Leboe (2000; J. Leboe & B. W. A. Whittlesea, 2002) proposed that such memory decisions entail various heuristics, similar to well-known heuristics in overt decision making. Using verbal stimulus materials, Whittlesea and Leboe illustrated 3 separate memory heuristics: fluency, generation, and resemblance. In the present investigation, the authors examined the generation and resemblance heuristics in face recognition. In 12 experiments, people memorized faces and later performed exclusion (source memory) tasks. Every experiment contained natural groups of facial photographs (e.g., Caucasian vs. Asian faces), but such groups were not always valid source-memory predictors. Instead, across experiments, the potential utility of generation and resemblance strategies was systematically varied. People were quite sensitive to such variations, changing from one heuristic to another as needed. However, they also combined heuristics, both improving and damaging performance across conditions. The relevance of recognition decision heuristics to eyewitness memory is considered.
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