Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

"Identify-to-Reject": A Specific Strategy to Avoid False Memories in the DRM Paradigm

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

"Identify-to-Reject": A Specific Strategy to Avoid False Memories in the DRM Paradigm

Article excerpt

Abstract Previous research using the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm has shown that lists of associates in which the critical words were easily identified as the themes of the lists produce lower levels of false memories in adults. In an attempt to analyze whether this effect is due to the application of a specific memory-editing process (the identify-to-reject strategy), two experiments manipulated variables that are likely to disrupt this strategy either at encoding or at retrieval. In Experiment 1, lists were presented at a very fast presentation rate to reduce the possibility of identifying the missing critical word as the theme of the list, and in Experiment 2, participants were pressed to give yes/no recognition answers within a very short time. The results showed that both of these manipulations disrupted the identifiability effect, indicating that the identify-to-reject strategy and theme identifiability play a major role in the rejection of false memories in the DRM paradigm.

Keywords False memories .DRM paradigm . Memory editing . Theme identifiability . Identify-to-reject

Analyzing how to avoid false memories can be a way of better understanding the mechanisms that stand behind their formation. The majority of research in this field has been centered on the rates of false recall and/or false recognition but has not always been concerned with the effort that the participants put in when avoiding false memories. And, without taking this effort into account, it is difficult to know whether the level of false memories produced is merely the result of error inflation processes or is also modulated by the intervention of some kind of memory rejection mechanisms. Moreover, the absence of a false memory following customary manipulations could mean either that the characteristics of the task did not lead to error inflation or that its production was successfully avoided by the participants. In the present study, we tried to disentangle the contribution of these processes by creating conditions under which participants could intentionally avoid false memories, by using one specific memory-editing strategy and conditions that did not facilitate the application of such a strategy. As will be shown, this particular strategy (identify-to-reject) seems to be specifically used in associative converging tasks and depends on the thematic extraction of the information. We present two experiments indicating that theme identifiability is a variable that greatly contributes to the rejection of false memories by promoting the use of the identify-to-reject strategy.

Memory-editing mechanisms

There are different ways by which participants may avoid false memories. Recall-to-reject and the use of a distinctiveness heuristic are two special editing mechanisms that participants can employ to achieve this goal. In general, the term recall-to-reject is used to describe the process by which, in recognition tasks, test probes that are similar to studied items are rejected because participants recall a specific studied item, which allows them to better detect a mismatch on some of the features. Thus, false memories can be avoided by specifically recalling true events that facilitate the rejection of other, similar items. This process is more easily engaged when the recall of the item in one list or context is mutually exclusive with its occurrence in another list (Jacoby, 1991; Rotello & Heit, 2000) or context (McElree, Dolan, & Jacoby, 1999).

Fuzzy trace theory has also described a similar process, recollection rejection, to account for the same phenomenon (Brainerd, Reyna, Wright, & Mojardin, 2003). In this dualprocess conception of false memory (Brainerd & Reyna, 2005), for every memorial event, two independent memory traces are encoded: a gist trace that captures the underlying meaning of the event, and a verbatim trace corresponding to the exact representation of the surface features of the event. …

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