College of Natural Sciences Colorado State University Department of Psychology

Anne Cleary

faculty photo

Cognitive Psychology

Phone: (970) 491-7701
Office Location: 243 BHSCI
Web Page:

PhD: Case Western Reserve University, 2001
Area of Specialization: Human memory, retrieval failure, residual memory during retrieval failure, subjective experiences of memory
Teaching Courses: I am currently teaching PSY 692B, a graduate seminar called Psychology's New Frontier: Mobile Sensor Technologies for Investigating Cognitive, Neural, Behavioral & Social Processes in Real Life
Office Hours:
Monday- | Tuesday- | Wednesday- | Thursday- | Friday- | By Appointment- X

Current Research: I study human memory. Human memory is far from perfect. Very often, it seems to fail us. We attempt to retrieve something from memory and fail to do so. In short, retrieval from memory sometimes (maybe even often) fails. My primary research interest is in residual memory during retrieval failure. That is, in what ways can people still display evidence of having some memory despite exhibiting a retrieval failure? For example, coming across a street sign with the name "Marston" may give you a sense that it reminds you of something, even if you cannot retrieve what that something is. One branch of my research attempts to identify what features of an item or situation can lead to a sense of recognition during retrieval failure. For example, do geometric shapes contribute to the sense of recognition with pictures and objects? Do phonemes contribute to the sense of recognition with spoken words? Can rhythm contribute to the sense of recognition with songs? Another branch of my research focuses on subjective experiences that suggest or relate to residual memory during retrieval failure. Among the subjective experiences that I study are: tip-of-the-tongue experiences (when people feel that a word is in memory, but cannot access the word), déjà vu experiences (when people have a feeling of having been someplace or done something before, despite knowing that they have not), and the sense of familiarity.

Vita: cleary.pdf

Recent Publications

Cleary, A.M. (2014). The sense of recognition during retrieval failure: Implications for the nature of memory traces In B.H. Ross's Psychology of Learning and Motivation, 60 77-112

Cleary, A.M., Brown, A.S., Sawyer, B.D., Nomi, J.S., Ajoku, A.C., & Ryals, A.J. (2012). Familiarity from the configuration of objects in 3-dimensional space and its relation to deja vu: A virtual reality investigation Consciousness and Cognition, 21 452-460.

Kostic, B. & Cleary, A. M. (2009). Song recognition without identification: When people cannot "name that tune" but can recognize it as familiar. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 138, 146-159.

Cleary, A.M. (2008). Recognition memory, familiarity, and deja vu experiences. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 17, 353-357.


Cleary Memory Lab: This laboratory engages in the scientific study of human memory. There are many ways to study human memory. In our laboratory, we conduct experiments aimed at investigating various human memory processes. In a typical experimental session, a research participant sits down at a computer and is first presented with a list of items (such as pictures or words) to remember. Then, his or her memory for these items is tested with a computerized test. This particular method is useful for examining many aspects of memory, such as how people recognize that something was experienced recently, or what sorts of activities lead memory to be better or worse. In this laboratory, the list learning method is primarily aimed at studying residual memory during retrieval failure. A classic example of is when a person recognizes another person's face as familiar, but cannot recollect the details of when or where the face was seen before. Much of the research in this lab attempts to address what features of an event or situation can give rise to a sense of memory during retrieval failure, and what types of mental processes underlie the sense that something is familiar or the sense that something is in memory during retrieval failure.
Location: Behavioral Sciences Building

Research Projects

Recognition without Cued Recall: The recognition without cued recall effect (Cleary, 2004; Ryals & Cleary, 2012) is the finding that people can recognize a test cues as resembling an earlier-presented item, despite an inability to recall the earlier presented item. Our laboratory uses the recognition without cued recall method as one of our techniques for studying residual memory during retrieval failure.

Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences: Tip-of-the-Tongue Experiences (TOTs) refer to the sense that a word is in memory but is failing to be retrieved. Our lab has shown that people can detect the fact that a word was presented recently, without being able to access to the word itself from memory. Our lab has also shown that people use tip-of-the-tongue states to make inferences about the unretrieved information.

Deja vu: Deja vu is the sense of having been somewhere or done something before despite knowing that this is the first time. Our lab has used virtual reality to investigate the types of situations that can drive deja vu. Our results have suggested that the experience of deja vu may be a form of residual memory during retrieval failure.

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