The Revelation Effect for Autobiographical Memory: A Mixture-Model Analysis

By Bernstein, Daniel M.; Rudd, Michael E. et al. | Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, June 2009 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

The Revelation Effect for Autobiographical Memory: A Mixture-Model Analysis


Bernstein, Daniel M., Rudd, Michael E., Erdfelder, Edgar, Godfrey, Ryan, Loftus, Elizabeth F., Psychonomic Bulletin & Review


Participants provided information about their childhood by rating their confidence about whether they had experienced various events (e.g., "broke a window playing ball"). On some trials, participants unscrambled a key word from the event phrase (e.g., wdinwo-window) or an unrelated word (e.g., gnutge-nugget) before seeing the event and giving their confidence ratings. The act of unscrambling led participants to increase their confidence that the event occurred in their childhood, but only when the confidence rating immediately followed the act of unscrambling. This increase in confidence mirrors the "revelation effect" observed in word recognition experiments. In the present article, we analyzed our data using a new signal detection mixture distribution model that does not require the researcher to know the veracity of memory judgments a priori. Our analysis reveals that unscrambling a key word or an unrelated word affects response bias and discriminability in autobiographical memory tests in ways that are very similar to those that have been previously found for word recognition tasks.

How do people decide whether a particular event occurred in the past? One important factor is the manner in which they process the event they are trying to remember. Unscrambling a word (anagram) just prior to making a recognition decision on that word or on an unrelated word increases the belief that the target word was seen before- a phenomenon called the revelation effect (Watkins & Peynircioðlu, 1990; Westerman & Greene, 1998). The revelation effect, which is mostly observed with verbal stimuli, has been extended to childhood autobiographical memory (Bernstein, Whittlesea, & Loftus, 2002). Participants express more confidence that events happened in their childhood if they unscramble a word embedded within descriptions of those events (e.g., "broke a nwidwo playing ball") prior to making the confidence judgment.

Verde and Rotello (2004) have shown that revelation experiments in which the anagram is the same word as the target word (nwi dwo-window) yield different effects than do experiments in which the anagram is unrelated to the target word (eblndre [blender]-window). Using signal detection theory, they demonstrated that the revelation effect for unrelated anagrams is due to increased response bias only (i.e., a general tendency to judge items as "old"), whereas the revelation effect for target-word anagrams is due to both increased response bias and impaired ability to discriminate old and new words as measured by the discriminability parameter d'.

The present work had two goals. First, we wished to test whether there would be a revelation effect in autobiographical memory when an anagram was presented immediately prior to (rather than simultaneously with) the rated life-event item. Doing this would conceptually replicate results found for word recognition tasks. Second, we wished to show that solving anagrams that were related versus those unrelated to life event-items would produce effects on discriminability and response bias similar to those previously found in standard recognition paradigms for anagrams that were identical to rather than unrelated to target items (Verde & Rotello, 2004). However, unlike in Verde and Rotello, we could not use standard signal detection (SD) methods to achieve our second goal, because it is generally unknown which life events depicted in the test really happened to a participant ("true events") and which did not ("false events"). We therefore developed a new SD mixture distribution model that helped us answer our research questions.

Assume that an unknown proportion, p, of items in the autobiographical memory test corresponds to true events from the participants' past. By implication, a proportion (1 2 p) of the test items must then describe false events. In keeping with the tenets of SD theory (see, e.g., Macmillan & Creelman, 1991), assume also that the familiarities of true and false events are independently normally distributed with the means dt and df (dt > df), and the standard deviations σt and σf, respectively.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

The Revelation Effect for Autobiographical Memory: A Mixture-Model Analysis
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?