More evidence against the Spinozan model: Cognitive load diminishes memory for “true” feedback

  • Lena NadarevicEmail author
  • Edgar Erdfelder


We tested two competing models on the memory representation of truth-value information: the Spinozan model and the Cartesian model. Both models assume that truth-value information is represented with memory “tags,” but the models differ in their coding scheme. According to the Cartesian model, true information is stored with a “true” tag, and false information is stored with a “false” tag. In contrast, the Spinozan model proposes that only false information receives “false” tags. All other (i.e., untagged) information is considered as true by default. Hence, in case of cognitive load during feedback encoding, the latter model predicts a load effect on memory for “false” feedback, but not on memory for “true” feedback. To test this prediction, participants studied trivia statements (Experiment 1) or nonsense statements that allegedly represented foreign-language translations (Experiment 2). After each statement, participants received feedback on the (alleged) truth value of the statement. Importantly, half of the participants experienced cognitive load during feedback processing. For the trivia statements of Experiment 1, we observed a load effect on memory for both “false” and “true” feedback. In contrast, for the nonsense statements of Experiment 2, we found a load effect on memory for “true” feedback only. Both findings clearly contradict the Spinozan model. However, our results are also only partially in line with the predictions of the Cartesian model. For this reason, we suggest a more flexible model that allows for an optional and context-dependent encoding of “true” tags and “false” tags.


Truth bias Spinoza Descartes Feedback memory Multinomial model 



This work was supported by a University of Mannheim autonomy grant. We thank Johanna Heckeroth, Denise Meyer, Jana Ritschel, and Vera Vogel for collecting data of Experiment 1. Moreover, we thank Vanessa Gottschall for her dedicated help with setting up and collecting data for Experiment 2.

Open practices statement

All materials and data sets for the two experiments are available via the Open Science Framework (OSF):


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Copyright information

© The Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, School of Social SciencesUniversity of MannheimMannheimGermany

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