The impact of subjective recognition experiences on recognition heuristic use: A multinomial processing tree approach

Marta Castela, David Kellen, Edgar Erdfelder, Benjamin E. Hilbig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


The recognition heuristic (RH) theory states that, in comparative judgments (e.g., Which of two cities has more inhabitants?), individuals infer that recognized objects score higher on the criterion (e.g., population) than unrecognized objects. Indeed, it has often been shown that recognized options are judged to outscore unrecognized ones (e.g., recognized cities are judged as larger than unrecognized ones), although different accounts of this general finding have been proposed. According to the RH theory, this pattern occurs because the binary recognition judgment determines the inference and no other information will reverse this. An alternative account posits that recognized objects are chosen because knowledge beyond mere recognition typically points to the recognized object. A third account can be derived from the memory-state heuristic framework. According to this framework, underlying memory states of objects (rather than recognition judgments) determine the extent of RH use: When two objects are compared, the one associated with a “higher” memory state is preferred, and reliance on recognition increases with the “distance” between their memory states. The three accounts make different predictions about the impact of subjective recognition experiences—whether an object is merely recognized or recognized with further knowledge—on RH use. We estimated RH use for different recognition experiences across 16 published data sets, using a multinomial processing tree model. Results supported the memory-state heuristic in showing that RH use increases when recognition is accompanied by further knowledge.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1131-1138
Number of pages8
JournalPsychonomic Bulletin and Review
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Decision making
  • Memory-state heuristic
  • Multinomial processing tree models
  • Recognition heuristic
  • Recognition memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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