The Differences Between Recall and Recognition

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Recall and recognition are the two ways to retrieve information from your memory. The difference is that recognition involves a cue, while recall does not.

1 Recognition

Recognition is a response to a sensory cue. When you see something, you compare it to information stored in your memory, and if you find a match, you "recognize" it.

2 Recognition Example

A police lineup is a classic exercise in recognition. You look at several people, and compare each to the person you saw commit the crime.

3 Recall

Recall is the retrieval of information from memory without a cue. There is a question, and you must search your memory for the answer.

4 Recall Example

Say that instead of looking at a lineup, you have to describe the person you saw to a sketch artist. This is an exercise in recall. The artist may try to help your recollection by asking questions, but ultimately you have to find the information yourself.

5 Comparison

Because it is cued, recognition is easier than recall. A simple illustration of this is recognizing a familiar face almost instantly, but struggling to come up with the person's name.

Cam Merritt is a writer and editor specializing in business, personal finance and home design. He has contributed to USA Today, The Des Moines Register and Better Homes and Gardens"publications. Merritt has a journalism degree from Drake University and is pursuing an MBA from the University of Iowa.