Imagination inflation: Imagining a childhood event inflates confidence that it occurred
Counterfactual imaginings are known to have far-reaching implications. In the present experiment, we ask if imagining events from one’s past can affect memory for childhood events. We draw on the social psychology literature showing that imagining a future event increases the subjective likelihood that the event will occur. The concepts of cognitive availability and the source-monitoring framework provide reasons to expect that imagination may inflate confidence that a childhood event occurred. However, people routinely produce myriad counterfactual imaginings (i.e., daydreams and fantasies) but usually do not confuse them with past experiences. To determine the effects of imagining a childhood event, we pretested subjects on how confident they were that a number of childhood events had happened, asked them to imagine some of those events, and then gathered new confidence measures. For each of the target items, imagination inflated confidence that the event had occurred in childhood. We discuss implications for situations in which imagination is used as an aid in searching for presumably lost memories.
- Abelson, R. P., Loftus, E. F., &Greenwald, A. G. (1992). Attempts to improve the accuracy of self-reports of voting. In J. M. Tanur (Ed.),Questions about survey questions: Meaning, memory, expression, and social interactions in surveys (pp. 138–153). New York: Russell Sage.
- Arkes, H. R., Boehm, L. E., &Xu, G. (1991). Determinants of judged validity.Journal of Experimental Social Psychology,27, 576–605. CrossRef
- Arkes, H. R., Hackett, C., &Boehm, L. (1989). The generality of the relation between familiarity and judged validity.Journal of Behavioral Decision Making,2, 81–94. CrossRef
- Bartlett, J. (1992).Familiar quotations: A collection of passages, phrases, and proverbs traced to their sources in ancient and modern literature (16th ed.). Boston: Little, Brown.
- Belli, R. F. (1989). Influences of misleading postevent information: Misinformation interference and acceptance.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,118, 72–85. CrossRef
- Carroll, J. S. (1978). The effect of imagining an event on expecations for the event: An interpretation in terms of the availability heuristic.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,36, 1501–1511. CrossRef
- Gibson, J. J. (1977/1986).The ecological approach to perception. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Gregory, W. L., Cialdini, R. B., &Carpenter, K. M. (1982). Selfrelevant scenarios as mediators of likelihood estimates and compliance: Does imagining make it so?Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,43, 88–99. CrossRef
- Hyman, I. E., Husband, T. H., &Billings, F. J. (1995). False memories of childhood experiences.Applied Cognitive Psychology,9, 181–197. CrossRef
- Jacoby, L. L., Woloshyn, V., &Kelley, C. (1989). Becoming famous without being recognized: Unconscious influences of memory produced by dividing attention.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,118, 115–125. CrossRef
- Johnson, M. K. (1988). Reality monitoring: An experimental phenomenological approach.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,117, 390–394. CrossRef
- Johnson, M. K., Foley, M., Suengas, A. G., &Raye, C. L. (1988). Phenomenal characteristics of memories for perceived and imagined autobiographical events.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,117, 371–376. CrossRef
- Johnson, M. K., Hashtroudi, S., &Lindsay, D. S. (1993). Source monitoring.Psychological Bulletin,114, 3–28. CrossRef
- Johnson, M. K., &Sherman, S. J. (1990). Constructing and reconstructing the past and the future in the present. In E. T. Higgins & R. M. Sorrentino (Eds.),Handbook of motivation and social cognition: Foundations of social behavior (pp. 482–526). New York: Guilford Press.
- Kahneman, D., &Tversky, A. (1982). The simulation heuristic. In D. Kahneman, P. Slovik, & A. Tversky (Eds.),Judgement under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases (pp. 201–208). New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Koehler, D. J. (1991). Explanation, imagination, and confidence in judgement.Psychological Bulletin,110, 499–519. CrossRef
- Loftus, E. F. (1993). The reality of repressed memories.American Psychologist,48, 518–537. CrossRef
- Maltz, W. (1991).The sexual abuse healing journey. New York: Harper/Collins.
- Neisser, U. (1986). Nested structure in autobiographical memory. In D. C. Rubin (Ed.),Autobiographical memory (pp. 71–81). New York: Cambridge University Press.
- Ofshe, R. J. (1992). Inadvertent hypnosis during interrogation: False confession due to dissociative state: Mis-identified multiple personality and the satanic cult hypothesis.International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis,40, 125–156. CrossRef
- Payne, D. G., &Roediger, H. L., III (1987). Hypermnesia occurs in recall but not in recognition.American Journal of Psychology,100, 145–165. CrossRef
- Pratkanis, A. R., Greenwald, A. G., Leippe, M. R., &Baumgardner, M. H. (1988). In search of reliable persuasion effects: III. The sleeper effect is dead: Long live the sleeper effect.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,54, 203–218. CrossRef
- Roediger, H. L., III, &Payne, D. G. (1985). Recall criterion does not affect recall level or hypermnesia: A puzzle for generate/recognize theories.Memory & Cognition,13, 1–7. CrossRef
- Sarbin, T. R. (1995). On the belief that one body may be host to two or more personalities.International Journal of Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis,43, 163–183. CrossRef
- Sherman, S. J., Cialdini, R. B., Schwartzman, D. F., &Reynolds, K. D. (1985). Imagining can heighten or lower the perceived likelihood of contracting a disease: The mediating effect of ease of imagery.Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin,11, 118–127. CrossRef
- Tversky, A., &Kahneman, D. (1973). Availability: A heuristic for judging frequency and probability.Cognitive Psychology,5, 207–232. CrossRef
- Wells, G. L., &Gavanski, I. (1989). Mental simulation of causality.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,56, 161–169. CrossRef
- Imagination inflation: Imagining a childhood event inflates confidence that it occurred
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
Volume 3, Issue 2 , pp 208-214
- Cover Date
- Print ISSN
- Online ISSN
- Additional Links