Does the butcher-on-the-bus phenomenon require a dual-process explanation? A signal detection analysis

Richard J. Tunney*, Timothy L. Mullett, Claudia J. Moross, Anna Gardner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The butcher-on-the-bus is a rhetorical device or hypothetical phenomenon that is often used to illustrate how recognition decisions can be based on different memory processes (Mandler, 1980). The phenomenon describes a scenario in which a person is recognized but the recognition is accompanied by a sense of familiarity or knowing characterized by an absence of contextual details such as the person's identity.We report two recognition memory experiments that use signal detection analyses to determine whether this phenomenon is evidence for a recollection plus familiarity model of recognition or is better explained by a univariate signal detection model.We conclude that there is an interaction between confidence estimates and remember-know judgments which is not explained fully by either single-process signal detection or traditional dual-process models.

Original languageEnglish
Article number208
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUN
Publication statusPublished - 9 Oct 2012

Bibliographical note

© 2012 Tunney, Mullett, Moross and Gardner. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License, which permits non-commercial use, distribution, and reproduction in other forums, provided the original authors and source are credited.


  • Context
  • Episodic memory
  • Faces
  • Recognition
  • Signal detection


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