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Vulnerability to false memory: The effects of stress, imagery, trait anxiety, and depression

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There is now abundant evidence that false memories can be created inside and outside the laboratory, and much is known about the kinds of techniques and manipulations that encourage the creation of false memories. However, rather less is known about the influence of naturally occurring variables over which the experimenter or clinician has little or no control. The current study investigated the influence of some of these variables on false memory creation. The influence of individual differences in depression, trait anxiety, imagery vividness and the interaction of these factors with stress was studied. Subjects studied series of pictures and words and then attempted to recall all the pictures presented, at a low-stress time and then later at a high-stress time. Intrusions from words at recall were the false memories in this study. Subjects who experience more vivid imagery were more vulnerable to false memories when they were stressed. Low trait anxious subjects were more likely to assign remember judgement to a false memory when they were stressed. These findings are discussed in terms of the source monitoring framework and implications for clinical practice.

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Correspondence to Paul Roberts.

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The author thanks Ainslie Lown for help in collecting and analyzing data from the first part of this study.

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Roberts, P. Vulnerability to false memory: The effects of stress, imagery, trait anxiety, and depression. Curr Psychol 21, 240–252 (2002).

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