The article presents a mathematical model of short-term recognition based on dual-process models and the three-component theory of working memory [Oberauer, K. (2002). Access to information in working memory: Exploring the focus of attention. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 28, 411–421]. Familiarity arises from activated representations in long-term memory, ignoring their relations; recollection retrieves bindings in the capacity-limited component of working memory.
In three experiments participants encoded two short lists of nonwords for immediate recognition, one of which was then cued as irrelevant. Probes from the irrelevant list were rejected more slowly than new probes; this was also found with probes recombining letters of irrelevant nonwords, suggesting that familiarity arises from individual letters independent of their relations. When asked to accept probes whose letters were all in the relevant list, regardless of their conjunction, participants accepted probes preserving the original conjunctions faster than recombinations, showing that recollection accessed feature bindings automatically.
The model fit the data best when familiarity depended only on matching letters, whereas recollection used binding information.