Assessing the accuracy of conflicting autobiographical memories

Abstract

We examined criteria that rememberers and neutral audiences use to validate conflicting memories. In Experiment 1, rememberers described an incident that they recalled differently from someone else from their own and the other person’s perspective. Rememberers and audiences then evaluated the accuracy of statements in both accounts, explained their accuracy ratings, and appraised the qualities of the memories. In Experiment 2, dyads who possessed conflicting memories of a shared past episode evaluated each other’s recollections. In both studies, rememberers rated their own recollections as more accurate than other people’s and based their judgments primarily on the internal coherence of the memories. Rememberers used consensus more frequently and sensory detail less often to evaluate other people’s memories than their own. Audiences (Experiment 1) reported examining the consistency between the accounts and their own experiences; they also used consensus and normative behavior to a greater extent than rememberers. In both studies, rememberers judged their own accounts to be more detailed and coherent. Their ratings of detail and coherence predicted their ratings of accuracy.

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Correspondence to Michael Ross.

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This research was supported by a doctoral fellowship to J.W.K. and research grants to M.R. and R.B. from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

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Ross, M., Buehler, R. & Karr, J.W. Assessing the accuracy of conflicting autobiographical memories. Mem Cogn 26, 1233–1244 (1998). https://doi.org/10.3758/BF03201197

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Keywords

  • Accuracy Rating
  • Audience Participant
  • Internal Coherence
  • Truth Criterion
  • Consistency Criterion