Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Working Memory Differences in Illusory Recollection of Critical Lures

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Working Memory Differences in Illusory Recollection of Critical Lures

Article excerpt

Published online: 24 January 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract In the present experiments, we explored the relationship between individual differences in working memory (WM) capacity and susceptibility to false recognitions and their accompanying subjective experiences. Deese/RoedigerMcDermott (DRM) associative lists were used to elicit false memories, and remember/know judgments were used to measure the recollective experiences accompanying recognition decisions. We found that WM capacity was related to false recognitions of nonpresented critical lures and to the proportion of remember responses given to critical lures, such that higher WM capacity was associated with lower false-recognition rates and with lower proportions of remember responses. Importantly, these WM differences were only found when participants were forewarned about the nature of the DRM task prior to encoding (Exp. 1). When the forewarning was absent, WM capacity was not related to false recognitions or to the proportion of remember responses given to critical lures (Exp. 2). These results support the controlled-attention view of WM and suggest that subjective experiences of falsely recognized lures fluctuate as a fonction of WM capacity.

Keywords Working memory capacity · Illusory recollection · Recognition judgments · False memories · Remember/know

Many people often falsely remember information that was never presented to them. To measure these false memories, the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM; Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995) paradigm is commonly used, in which an associative list of words (e.g., nurse, sick, medicine, etc.) is presented and participants are asked to either recall or recognize the words at a later time. On subsequent memory tests, participants often recall or recognize critical lures (e.g., doctor), which are words that are semantically related to all of the items on the presented lists but that were not themselves presented. In fact, the intrusion and false-recognition rates for critical lures have often been found to be comparable to, or sometimes even exceed, recognition rates of the studied words (e.g., Hicks & Hancock, 2002; McDermott, 1996; Roediger & McDermott, 1995; Seamon, Luo & Gallo, 1998).

To explain this effect, an activation/monitoring theory of the DRM false-memory phenomenon has been proposed (Gallo, 2010; Roediger & McDermott, 2000; Roediger, Watson, McDermott & Gallo, 2001). According to this framework, as with other implicit-association theories of recognition memory (e.g., Underwood, 1965), the critical lure is activated during encoding by spreading activation through a semantic network. As the semantic associates of the particular DRM list are presented, this spreading activation converges upon the critical lure word, which is itself activated as a result (whether automatically or consciously). Subsequently, during the testing phase, the heightened activation of the critical lure during encoding will often cause a disruption in the participant's source monitoring (Johnson, Hashtroudi & Lindsay, 1993). With an inability to correctly attribute the critical lure memory to its actual source, participants will often recollect or recognize the critical lure as having been previously presented.

Because of the robustness of the DRM illusion across different experiments and conditions, much research has been conducted to explore variables that could potentially eliminate, or at least reduce, the false-memory effect. One such condition, which is important for the present study, is explicitly forewarning participants about of the nature of the DRM illusion (e.g., Gallo, Roberts & Seamon, 1997; McDermott & Roediger, 1998; Neuschatz, Benoit & Payne, 2003; Watson, McDermott & Balota, 2004). The general finding of these studies has been that an explicit forewarning of the DRM illusion prior to encoding usually is able to reduce, though not to completely eliminate, false-recall or false-recognition rates for the critical lures. …

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