Reducing false memories: pictorial elements versus elaboration




Neil, Elizabeth E.

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Researchers often discuss the reduction of false memories for picture versus written word presentation in terms of the distinctiveness heuristic, which proposes that participants draw on images' distinctive elements to safeguard against false recognition (Israel & Schacter, 1997; Weinstein & Shanks, 2010). However, when using the standard Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM; Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995) study list materials, the relationship between pictures and words is not perfect and may require elaboration to relate the two. Thus, we proposed that elaboration may be able to explain the reduction in false memories following visual encoding (McDonough & Gallo, 2008; R.E. Smith & Hunt, 1998). We sought to determine whether elaboration or pictorial elements would be more influential in reducing false memories in the DRM paradigm. Participants studied categorized list exemplars and were randomly assigned to see either pictures or words that either matched or were related to the auditory study list words. False memory rates were measured based on both recognition and recall tests following the study period. The results of this experiment provide some support for the proposal that elaboration plays an important role in reducing both falsely recognized and falsely recalled memories, but the overall results were not entirely consistent with the elaboration explanation. False memories were reduced in the related versus matched conditions. However, the opposite was found for correct memory, indicating that the presentation of the two different items in the related conditions produced interference that reduced correct memory.


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distinctiveness, false memories