Abstract

The survival processing effect is the finding that items processed for their survival relevance are remembered better than those processed using other elaborative types of encoding strategies. This effect has been attributed to more elaborative encoding processes engendered by the survival scenario; however, there are various limitations with previous studies used to support the elaborative processing account. The present study sought to provide evidence for the elaborative processing account by examining the types of memory processes enhanced by the survival scenario. According to dual process models, recognition memory reflects two distinct processes: recognition and familiarity. Elaborative processing has been shown to increase recollection but not familiarity. The present study explored the survival processing effect using 2 different paradigms to separate recognition from familiarity. Experiment 1 used the process dissociation procedure, and Experiment 2 used the remember/know procedure. In both experiments, we replicated the survival processing effect in recognition memory, showing an increase in hit rates for words rated for their survival relevance. More important, our results advance the literature by demonstrating that survival relevance rating increased recollection but not familiarity (Experiment 1) and elicited more “remember” (recollection) than “know” (familiarity) judgments (Experiment 2). These results support the notion that survival processing is due, in part, to greater elaborative processing.

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