Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Retrieval Dynamics in False Recall: Revelations from Identifiability Manipulations

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Retrieval Dynamics in False Recall: Revelations from Identifiability Manipulations

Article excerpt

Published online: 9 January 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract The present study analyzed the retrieval dynamics of false recall, using an externalized free-recall task after participants studied Deese/Roediger-McDermott lists with high- and low-identifiable critical words. In Experiment 1, the memory test required participants to write down the words they remembered as having been presented in each list (recall output) plus any related words that came to mind (inclusion output). The results of the inclusion output showed that highly identifiable critical items were more frequently generated than less identifiable critical items, suggesting that highly identifiable critical words were more accessible in a first phase of retrieval. At the same time, the results of the recall output showed that highly identifiable critical items were less often falsely recalled than low-identifiable critical items, a replication of previous findings. In Experiment 2, self-reports corroborated that participants were using an editing strategy based on the identification and exclusion of critical words-that is, the identify-to-reject strategy. These results help us to more fully understand the identifiability effect and, beyond that, emphasize the importance of considering the intervening of dual processes of accessibility and error correction as a crucial feature in theoretical explanations of false memories.

Keywords False memory . DRM paradigm . Identifiability effect . Externalized free-recall . Self-reports

When lists of associated words (e.g., door, glass, pane, shade, ledge, sill, house, open, curtain, etc.) are studied without the converging word of each list (its critical word [CW]-e.g., window), participants in experiments often falsely remember that the nonstudied CWs were presented in the study lists (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). This simple procedure and this typical result characterize the Deese/ Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm. Although, in general, the results of the DRM paradigm are very impressive and robust, showing that false memories can be easily produced in laboratory settings, there is also evidence that false memories within this paradigm can be avoided. The latter is an interesting empirical finding, because it may further illuminate the mechanisms behind this type of memory errors both in the laboratory and in everyday life.

Some interesting findings, identifying conditions in which participants can reject false memories, have been reported. For example, some procedural manipulations lead to decrements in false recall or false recognition: the issuing of warnings at the time of study (McDermott & Roediger, 1998), slow presentation rate (McDermott & Watson, 2001), ample time to respond on the memory test (Benjamin, 2001), and, in general, manipulations that increase correct memory (e.g., repetition of lists; Brainerd, Reyna, Wright, & Mojardin, 2003). These manipulations are thought to facilitate error elimination because they increase the possibilities of using monitoring or verbatim memory. Moreover, some intrinsic characteristics of the CWs, such as length (e.g., Madigan & Neuse, 2004) and emotional value (e.g., Pesta, Murphy, & Sanders, 2001), can also make these words more distinctive than the studied words, contributing to false memory reduction.

More recently, another, more relational characteristic of the CWs has been demonstrated to be also important in false memory reduction: the identifiability of a given CW as a good referent for the theme connecting the words in its corresponding list (Carneiro, Fernandez, & Dias, 2009; Neuschatz, Benoit, & Payne, 2003). In work reporting this identifiability effect, Carneiro et al. (2009, 2012) have shown that unpresented CWs that are highly identifiable as the theme of their list are less likely to be falsely recalled and recognized. The explanation of the identifiability effect has been linked to the operation of the identify-to-reject (ITR) monitoring strategy (Gallo, 2006), which is based on assumptions about processes that take place during study and processes that take place at the time of the memory tests. …

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