Two experiments were conducted to examine whether a misattribution of specific characteristics or a misattribution of global familiarity underlies false memories as assessed through imagination inflation. Using the paradigm developed by Goff and Roediger (1998), we found that the proportion of false memories increased with repeated imagination, replicating the imagination inflation effect. False memories developed through imagination were greatest in conditions that forced participants to include sensory detail in their imaginings. Finally, conscious recollection more often accompanied false memories in perceptually detailed imagination conditions, whereas feelings of familiarity more often accompanied false memories in conditions that lacked sensory cues. These results suggest that imagination that contains more perceptual information leads to more elaborate memory representations containing specific characteristics that can be confused with actually performed actions. Confusion based on these representations, as opposed to confusion based on processing fluency, is more likely to lead to false memories.
Dobson, M., &Markham, R. (1993). Imagery ability and source monitoring: Implications for eyewitness memory.British Journal of Psychology,84, 111–118.
Drivdahl, S. D., &Zaragoza, M. S. (2001). The role of perceptual elaboration and individual differences in the creation of false memories for suggested events.Applied Cognitive Psychology,15, 265–281.
Durso, F. T., &Johnson, M. K. (1980). The effect of orienting task on recognition, recall, and modality confusion of pictures and words.Journal of Verbal Learning & Verbal Behavior,19, 416–429.
Gardiner, J.M. (1988). Functional aspects of recollective experiences.Memory & Cognition,16, 309–313.
Garry, M., Frame, S., &Loftus, E. F. (1999). Lie down and let me tell you about your childhood. In S. Della Sala (Ed.),Mind myths: Exploring popular notions about the mind and brain (pp. 113–124). Chichester, U.K.: Wiley.
Garry, M., Manning, C. G., Loftus, E. F., &Sherman, S. J. (1996). Imagination inflation: Imagining a childhood event inflates confidence that it occurred.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,3, 208–214.
Goff, L. M., &Roediger, H. L., III (1998). Imagination inflation for action events: Repeated imaginings lead to illusory recollections.Memory & Cognition,26, 20–33.
Heaps, C., &Nash, M. (1999). Individual differences in imagination inflation.Psychonomic Bulletin & Review,6, 313–318.
Henkel, L.A., Franklin, N., &Johnson, M. K. (2000). Cross-modal source monitoring confusions between perceived and imagined events.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,26, 321–335.
Jacoby, L. L., Allan, L. G., Collins, J. C., &Larwill, L. K. (1988). Memory influences subjective experience: Noise judgments.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition,14, 240–247.
Jacoby, L. L., &Dallas, M. (1981). On the relationship between autobiographical memory and perceptual learning.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,110, 306–340.
Jacoby, L. L., Kelley, C. M., Brown, J., &Jasechko, J. (1989). Becoming famous overnight: Limits on the ability to avoid unconscious influences of the past.Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,56, 326–338.
Jacoby, L. L., Kelley, C. M., &Dywan, J. (1989). Memory attributions. In H. L. Roediger III & F. I. M. Craik (Eds.),Varieties of memory and consciousness: Essays in honour of Endel Tulving (pp. 391–422). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
Johnson, M. K., Foley, M.A., &Leach, K. (1988). The consequences for memory of imagining in another person’s voice.Memory & Cognition,16, 337–342.
Johnson, M. K., Foley, M.A., 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.
Johnson, M. K., Hashtroudi, S., &Lindsay, S. D. (1993). Source monitoring.Psychological Bulletin,114, 3–28.
Johnson, M. K., &Raye, C. L. (1981). Reality monitoring.Psychological Review,94, 37–64.
Lindsay, D. S., &Johnson, M. K. (2000). False memories and the source monitoring framework: A reply to Reyna and Lloyd (1997).Learning & Individual Differences,12, 145–161.
Moreland, R. L., &Zajonc, R. B. (1977). Is stimulus recognition a necessary condition for occurrence of exposure effects?Journal of Personality & Social Psychology,4, 191–199.
Paddock, J. R., Noel, M., Terronova, S., Eber, H. W., Manning, C. G., &Loftus, E. F. (1999). Imagination inflation and the perils of guided visualization.Journal of Psychology,133, 581–595.
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.
Rajaram, S. (1993). Remembering and knowing: Two means of access to the personal past.Memory & Cognition,21, 89–102.
Suengas, A. G., &Johnson, M. K. (1988). Qualitative effects of rehearsal on memories for perceived and imagined complex events.Journal of Experimental Psychology: General,117, 377–389.
Thomas, A. K., &Loftus, E. F. (2002). Creating bizarre false memories through imagination.Memory & Cognition,30, 423–431.
Tulving, E. (1985). Memory and consciousness.Canadian Psychologist,26, 1–12.
The results of these experiments have been presented at the 12th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Society, Miami, June 2000, and at the 2nd Annual Northwest Conference on Cognition and Memory in Bellingham, WA, June 2000. This manuscript benefited from comments by Mary Ann Foley, Colleen Kelley, and Karen Mitchell.
About this article
Cite this article
Thomas, A.K., Bulevich, J.B. & Loftus, E.F. Exploring the role of repetition and sensory elaboration in the imagination inflation effect. Memory & Cognition 31, 630–640 (2003). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03196103
- False Memory
- Mixed ANOVA
- Text Presentation
- Familiar Action
- Perceptual Detail