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Importing perceived features into false memories

By Keith B. Lyle and Marcia K. Johnson

Abstract

False memories sometimes contain specific details, such as location or colour, about events that never occurred. Based on the source-monitoring framework, we investigated one process by which false memories acquire details: the reactivation and misattribution of feature information from memories of similar perceived events. In Experiments 1A and 1B, when imagined objects were falsely remembered as seen, participants often reported that the objects had appeared in locations where visually or conceptually similar objects, respectively, had actually appeared. Experiment 2 indicated that colour and shape features of seen objects were misattributed to false memories of imagined objects. Experiment 3 showed that perceived details were misattributed to false memories of objects that had not been explicitly imagined. False memories that imported perceived features, compared to those that presumably did not, were subjectively more like memories for perceived events. Thus, perception may be even more pernicious than imagination in contributing to false memories. False memories are memories for events that never occurred, or did not occur the way we remember them (e.g., Johnson & Raye, 1981; Loftus, 1979). The details people remember about events constitute the episodic content of memories. The episodic content of false and real memories alike may include information about the semantic and perceptual qualities of events, the context in which events occurred (e.g., temporal, spatial), or thoughts and feelings evoked by events (Johnson & Raye, 1981). A diverse body of research shows that false memories may be quite detailed and subjectively compelling (for reviews

Year: 2006
OAI identifier: oai:CiteSeerX.psu:10.1.1.418.4800
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