The orienting response, the brain's reaction to novel and/or out of context familiar events, is reflected by the novelty P3 of the ERP. Contextually novel events also engender high rates of recognition memory. We examined, under incidental and intentional conditions, the effects of visual symbol familiarity on the novelty P3 recorded during an oddball task and on the parietal episodic memory (EM) effect, an index of recollection. Repetition of familiar, but not unfamiliar, symbols elicited a reduction in the novelty P3. Better recognition performance for the familiar symbols was associated with a robust parietal EM effect, which was absent for the unfamiliar symbols in the incidental task. These data demonstrate that processing of novel events depends on expectation and whether stimuli have preexisting representations in long-term semantic memory.