An ability to flexibly shift a decision criterion can be advantageous. For example, a known change in the base rate of targets and distractors on a recognition memory test will lead optimal decision makers to shift their criterion accordingly. In the present study, 95 individuals participated in two recognition memory tests that included periodic changes in the base rate probability that the test stimulus had been presented during the study session. The results reveal a wide variability in the tendency to shift decision criterion in response to this probability information, with some appropriately shifting and others not shifting at all. However, participants were highly reliable in their tendency to shift criterion across tests. The goal of the present study was to explain what factors account for these individual differences. To accomplish this, over 50 variables were assessed for each individual (e.g., personality, cognitive style, state of mind). Using a regression model that incorporated different sets of factors, over 50 % of the variance was accounted for. The results of the analysis describe the total, direct, and mediating effects on criterion shifting from factors that include memory strength, strategy, and inherent characteristics such as a fun-seeking personality, a negative affect, and military rank. The results are discussed with respect to understanding why participants rarely chose an optimal decision-making strategy and provide greater insight into the underlying mechanisms of recognition memory.