Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Effect of Study Modality on False Recognition

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

The Effect of Study Modality on False Recognition

Article excerpt

A number of previous studies have shown that false recognition of critical items in the Deese/Roediger-McDermott paradigm is reduced when study items are presented visually rather than auditorily; however, this effect has not been uniformly demonstrated. We investigated three potential boundary conditions of the effect of study modality in false recognition. Experiments 1 and 2 showed no reduction in false recognition following visual study presentation when the yes-no recognition test was not preceded by a recall test. Experiment 3 showed that visual study presentation can reduce false recognition without a preceding recall test, if the recognition test uses remember-know instructions. The order of the recognition test items did not influence the effect of visual study presentation on false recognition in Experiment 1. In general, the data imply that distinctive processing at study can reduce false memory in recognition if the test demands draw attention to the dimension of distinctive processing.

Memory accuracy requires correct identification both of events that did occur and of events that did not occur. Failure to reject events that did not occur yields false memories, a phenomenon that has received renewed attention with Roediger and McDermott's (1995) resuscitation of Deese's (1959) paradigm. In the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm, participants study lists of words, such as sour, candy, heart, and so on, that are all highly associated with a critical nonstudied item, such as sweet. On subsequent recall and recognition tests, participants will frequently falsely recall or falsely recognize the critical item as having been part of the study list (e.g., Payne, Elie, Blackwell, & Neuschatz, 1996; Read, 1996; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). Levels of false recall and recognition are often as high as levels of correct recall and recognition. Thus, the DRM paradigm provides a reliable way to evoke false memories.

Smith and Hunt (1998) discovered that the probability of falsely recalling or falsely recognizing the critical items in the DRM paradigm is significantly lower following visual study presentation than following auditory study presentation. The effect of study modality has now been demonstrated using the DRM paradigm on written recall tests in 10 different experiments (Cleary & Greene, 2002; Gallo, McDermott, Percer, & Roediger, 2001, Experiment 1; Kellogg, 2001; Smith & Hunt, 1998; Smith, Lozito, & Bayen, 2005) and on visual recognition tests in 8 experiments (Cleary & Greene, 2002; Gallo et al., 2001; Gallo & Roediger, 2003; Pierce, Gallo, Weiss, & Schacter, 2005, Experiment 1; Smith & Hunt, 1998). Although the reduction of false memories following visual study presentation has been replicated in a number of different studies from different laboratories, the size of the effect in recognition memory varies across studies, and in some cases visual study does not reduce false recognition relative to auditory study (Kellogg, 2001; Maylor & Mo, 1999; McKone & Murphy, 2000; Pierce et al., 2005, Experiment 2). The purpose of the present study was to investigate potential boundary conditions for the effect of study presentation modality on false recognition in the DRM paradigm.

In service of this goal, we examined the literature to identify factors that may influence whether visual study presentation reduces false recognition. One factor has already been identified in the literature-namely, the modality of the final memory test. In two experiments conducted by Gallo et al. (2001, Experiments 2 and 3), visual study presentation did not reduce false recognition when an auditory recognition test was used; thus, the modality of the recognition test does influence the effect of study modality (see also Kellogg, 2001, for parallel findings in false recall). Kellogg suggested that when a written memory test is used, the match between study and test modalities in the visual study condition may underlie the reduction in false memory relative to the case in which there is a mismatch between study and test (auditory study followed by visual test). …

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