Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, Volume 8, Issue 3, pp 385-407

Factors that determine false recall: A multiple regression analysis

  • Henry L. RoedigerAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Washington University Email author 
  • , Jason M. WatsonAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Washington University
  • , Kathleen B. McDermottAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Washington University
  • , David A. GalloAffiliated withDepartment of Psychology, Washington University


In the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm, subjects study lists of words that are designed to elicit the recall of an associatively related critical item. The 55 lists we have developed provide levels of false recall ranging from .01 to .65, and understanding this variability should provide a key to understanding this memory illusion. Using a simultaneous multiple regression analysis, we assessed the contribution of seven factors in creating false recall of critical items in the DRM paradigm. This analysis accounted for approximately 68% of the variance in false recall, with two main predictors: associative connections from the study words to the critical item (r+.73; semipartialr+.60) and recallability of the lists (r+.43; semipartialr-.34). Taken together, the variance in false recall captured by these predictors accounted for 84% of the variance that can be explained, given the reliability of the false recall measures (r=.90). Therefore, the results of this analysis strongly constrain theories of false memory in this paradigm, suggesting that at least two factors determine the propensity of DRM lists to elicit false recall. The results fit well within the theoretical framework postulating that both semantic activation of the critical item and strategic monitoring processes influence the probability of false recall and false recognition in this paradigm.