Diffusion model drift rates can be influenced by decision processes: An analysis of the strength-based mirror effect

Jeffrey J. Starns, Roger Ratcliff, Corey N. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

53 Scopus citations


Improving memory for studied items (targets) often helps participants reject nonstudied items (lures), a pattern referred to as the strength-based mirror effect (SBME). Criss (2010) demonstrated the SBME in diffusion model drift rates; that is, the target drift rate was higher and the lure drift rate was lower for lists of words studied 5 times versus lists of words studied once. She interpreted the drift rate effect for lures as evidence for the differentiation process, whereby strong memory traces produce a poorer match to lure items than do weak memory traces. However, she noted that strength may have also affected a model parameter called the drift criterion-a participant-controlled decision parameter that defines the zero point in drift rate. We directly contrasted the differentiation and drift-criterion accounts by manipulating list strength either at both encoding and retrieval (which produces a differentiation difference in the studied traces) or at retrieval only (which equates differentiation from the study list but provides the opportunity to change decision processes based on strength). Across 3 experiments, results showed that drift rates for lures were lower on strong tests than on weak tests, and this effect was observed even when strength was varied at retrieval alone. Therefore, results provided evidence that the SBME is produced by changes in decision processes, not by differentiation of memory traces.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1137-1151
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2012


  • Differentiation
  • Diffusion model
  • Drift criterion
  • Recognition memory
  • Strength-based mirror effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Linguistics and Language


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