Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Source Monitoring in Eyewitness Memory: Implicit Associations, Suggestions, and Episodic Traces

Academic journal article Memory & Cognition

Source Monitoring in Eyewitness Memory: Implicit Associations, Suggestions, and Episodic Traces

Article excerpt

Both the distinctiveness heuristic and discrepancy detection hypotheses were investigated by independently manipulating both schema consistency and incidental suggestion in an eyewitness memory paradigm. A sequence of slides was shown, followed by a postevent questionnaire that contained both schema-typical and schema-atypical information. Fifteen minutes later, a source-monitoring task was administered. In Experiment 1, the proportion of source misattribution errors was greater for schema-typical items than for schema-atypical items, and the proportion of errors on suggested items was greater than that on control items. Suggestion affected schema-typical and schema-atypical items equally, providing no support for the predictions of either hypothesis. In Experiment 2, the interval between the questionnaire and the source test was manipulated. The results of Experiment 1 were replicated under the short delay, whereas the proportion of errors increased under the long delay. An associative network model involving two types of episodic traces was used to account for the results.

In the past decade, theoretical attention has focused on explaining various types of errors that occur during the recollection of an event. Source misattribution errors occur when the times, locations, or sources of items are improperly identified. The rate at which misattribution errors arise appears to be influenced by the use of the distinctiveness heuristic (Dodson & Schacter, 2002; Schacter, Israel, & Racine, 1999): a metacognitive strategy that helps determine which recollected items were part of the experience. Vivid details and distinctive information are assumed to be part of the memorial representation of an experience. When an item is recollected but lacks this information, it is identified as new or novel. Sometimes problems occur, and an item that is novel is identified as part of the experience, resulting in a recall, recognition, or source misattribution error. Presumably, the novel item was somehow encoded along with vivid details that made it indistinguishable from the items that were actually encoded from the experience. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the use of the distinctiveness heuristic in the interpretation of source misattribution errors in the context of an eyewitness paradigm.

Both Israel and Schacter (1997) and Schacter et al. (1999) evaluated the distinctiveness heuristic hypothesis using the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm. Roediger and McDermott's (1995) study exemplifies how this paradigm has been employed. They presented to participants several lists of words in succession. On a typical list (e.g., KID, ADULT, ADOLESCENT, etc.), each word was associatively related to a critical nonpresented word (e.g., CHILD). Even though the critical words were never presented during the study phase, the participants frequently identified them as having been presented.

The identification of those critical unstudied words as "old" items on a recognition test was assumed to be due to the activation of preexisting associates by the list words, making available implicit associative responses during the study phase (Roediger & McDermott, 1995; Underwood, 1965). Because each of the list words was related to the critical word, that word was repeatedly activated during study. McEvoy, Nelson, and Komatsu (1999) provided evidence in support of this interpretation when they showed that the probability of falsely recognizing a critical word significantly increased as the strength of the connections between the list words and the critical word increased.

Two factors may be responsible for the false recognitions that are observed in a DRM paradigm: Implicit associative responses are activated by the list words during the study phase, and the use of the distinctiveness heuristic by the participants during the test phase would make it difficult for them to distinguish between studied words and critical words. …

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