Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Effect of Divided Attention on False Memory Depends on How Memory Is Tested

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Effect of Divided Attention on False Memory Depends on How Memory Is Tested

Article excerpt

In three experiments, we investigated the effects of divided attention on false memory, using the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm. In Experiments 1 and 2, participants studied six DRM lists with full attention and six in one of two divided-attention conditions (random number generation or digit monitoring). Both divided-attention conditions increased false recall of related words (Experiment 1) but reduced false recognition (Experiment 2). These results were confirmed in Experiment 3, in which the type of secondary task was manipulated within groups. We argue that the increase in false recall with divided attention reflects a change in participants' response criterion, whereas the decrease in false recognition occurs because the secondary tasks prevent participants from generating associates of the words presented at study.

The Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) procedure (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995) has been widely used to investigate false memories and memory distortions under controlled laboratory conditions. The procedure involves the presentation of lists of semantic associates of a word that is not itself presented (the critical lure). For example, participants hear words such as bed, rest, awake, tirea, and dream, which are all associates of the critical lure sleep. Roediger and McDermott found that participants falsely recalled the critical lures with a probability that was the same as or higher than the probability with which they correctly recalled the words that were presented hi the middle of the lists. They also found that the critical lures were as likely as studied items to be judged as old in subsequent recognition tests. Moreover, the critical lures were recognized with high levels of confidence and were frequently categorized as remember (R) responses, on the basis of conscious recollection (Gardiner, 1988; Tulving, 1985), suggesting that the participants had detailed (although illusory) recollections of encountering those items at study. These observations have been confirmed in many subsequent studies (see Roediger & Gallo, 2004, for a review).

Roediger and McDermott (1995) developed an activation-monitoring account to explain their findings. The activation component is based on the implicit associative responses account of false recognition proposed by Underwood (1965). Underwood suggested that participants spontaneously generate associates to words presented by the experimenter at study. For example, participants presented with the word cold spontaneously generate the antonym hot. In the DRM procedure, participants generate the critical lures in response to the study lists. In subsequent tests of recall or recognition, participants make source-monitoring errors and erroneously believe that the generated items were included in the study lists. The monitoring component is based on the source-monitoring framework developed by Johnson and colleagues (e.g., Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993).

The DRM illusion has proved to be a particularly robust phenomenon and persists (although in an attenuated form) even when participants are forewarned about the effects observed in previous studies (McDermott & Roediger, 1998). However, a number of encoding manipulations have been found to reduce the magnitude of the DRM illusion. For example, levels of false recall and false recognition are reduced when the DRM stimuli are presented in short, rather than long, lists (Robinson & Roediger, 1 997), when presented in random, rather than blocked, sequences (McDermott, 1 996; Toglia, Neuschatz, & Goodwin, 1999), or when accompanied by a corresponding picture (Israel & Schacter, 1997). These findings suggest that the DRM illusion is reduced when encoding conditions restrict participants' opportunity to generate semantic associates of the study items.

The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of divided attention on the DRM illusion. …

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