Creating bizarre false memories through imagination

Abstract

The present study explored memory for familiar or usual actions (e.g., flip the coin) and bizarre or unusual actions (e.g., sit on the dice). In Session l, action statements were presented to 210 participants, who had to either perform or imagine those actions. In Session 2, 24 h later, participants imagined performing various actions, some presented in the first session and others totally new. Finally, in Session 3, 2 weeks later, participants were tested on their memory for the original actions. We found that as the number of imaginings increased in Session 2, so did the proportion ofdid responses to actions that were only imagined or not even presented. This pattern was present for both bizarre and familiar actions. These results demonstrate that bizarre actions may lose the item distinctiveness that is used to make accurate memory decisions after repeated imagination.

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Correspondence to Ayanna K. Thomas.

Additional information

This experiment was developed in partial fulfillment of the master of science degree at the University of Washington.

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Thomas, A.K., Loftus, E.F. Creating bizarre false memories through imagination. Memory & Cognition 30, 423–431 (2002). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03194942

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Keywords

  • False Alarm
  • False Memory
  • False Recognition
  • Source Monitoring
  • Mixed List