Individual Differences in Susceptibility to False Memory

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Individual Differences in Susceptibility to False Memory

Memory is often a reconstruction of past experiences as opposed to a retrieval of experienced events recorded exactly as they happened (Bransford & Franks, 1971). Although memory performance is often accurate, for example when people remember their first day of school, errors might arise from the very processes that produce those accurate records, due to memory’s constructive nature. For instance, your memory of an argument during a family reunion in which you supported your brother’s point of view may be very different from your sister’s recollection who was arguing with your brother.

Most likely, reports from both persons contain errors as well as authentic information. Due to its constructive nature, memory can often be strongly influenced by expectations, emotions, the suggested beliefs of others, inappropriate interpretations, or desired outcomes. Hence, several studies have examined individual differences in susceptibility to false memories. Definition In this context, false memories can be defined as memories that are distortions of actual events in the past, or as memories that were only imagined, but did not actually happen.

False memories are increasingly becoming a subject of scientific interest due in part to clinical and legal concerns regarding eyewitness testimony in which suspects can be wrongfully convicted of a crime based on false eyewitness testimony, as well as research on increased suggestibility to false memories in the aging population (Porter et al. , 2000. Research has shown that individuals are more susceptible to false memories under some circumstances than in others.

Factors such as older age (Jacoby, 1999), stress (Payne, Nadel, Allen, Thomas, & Jacobs, 2002), divided attention (Jacoby, Woloshyn, & Kelley, 1999), time pressure (Benjamin & Craik, 2001), and strong suggestion (Loftus & Pickrell, 1995) increase the effect that suggestibility has on the development of false memories. In contrast, warnings (Gallo, Roberts, & Seamon, 1997) and/or using stringent test criteria (Multhaup & Conner, 2002) have been shown to decrease suggestibility to some extent. Measurements False memories recalls might be due to not only individual differences but also to different measurements that one uses to measure either the individual differences or the type of test for memory recall.

During the past several decades, memory researchers have increasingly emphasized the accuracy, rather than the quantity of information that people remember (Roediger & Gallo, 2002). For example, Koriat and Goldsmith (1994, 1996) have noted that traditional laboratory memory studies primarily focused on how many items or events could be retrieved, whereas much of current memory research has shifted toward examining how well memory corresponds to past events.

That is, research has increasingly emphasized the errors that people make in retrieving the past. There are various ways in which researchers have characterized such memory errors. For example, Schacter (2002) has defined an error of commission as a failure to retrieve an item from a past event. That is one may forget what he or she did on the first day of kindergarten. Schacter has also defined an error of commission as a retrieval of information or item that are incorrect. That is one may falsely remember having chips at a party but in fact no chips were served.

Although both errors of commission and error of commission are important topic of investigation, researchers have largely focused on the latter. Schater (2002) further identified misattribution as one of the errors of commission and distinguished among three different types of misattribution. The first of misattribution occurs when one correctly members an item or event, but misattribution it to an incorrect source. For example, one may falsely remember meeting a person at a Thanksgiving party when in fact was at a Christmas party. The second type of misattribution occurs when one’s own imagination is misattributed to a prior experience.

For example, one may falsely remember locking the car when in fact the person just imagined doing so. The third type of misattribution occurs when one falsely remember an item or event that has never happened. For example, one may falsely remember seeing books in a professor’s office when in fact no books were present (Bernstein & Putnam, 1996). Roediger and McDermott (1995) called the incident of either remembering items or events that never happened, or remembering them quite differently from the way they actually happened “false memory. ” Paradigms

It appears that some people are more likely than others to experience false memories, but the characteristics that matter may differ depending on what kind of false memory paradigm. Several researchers have studied false memory under different paradigms. Some of these are the Misinformation Effect, DRM, Imagination Inflation, Autobiographical writing, and Experimental paradigms. The Misinformation Effect After witnessing a distinctive event, such as a robbery, a kidnapping, or a car accident, it is common for the person to subsequently encounter additional information (correct and erroneous) relevant to the event.

This might happen directly after the event, when discussing it with other witnesses, or later when encountering additional information, such as from the police, from a lawyer while testifying in court, or even on TV in some cases. The misinformation effect has been defined as the phenomenon in which this misleading post-event information interferes with the retrieval processes of the original information (Barnier & McConkey, 1992). The basic procedure in the misinformation paradigm involves three stages: the event, the misleading information, and the memory test.

People who are given misinformation after an event are more likely to remember the event inaccurately than those in the control group who did not get the misinformation. These procedures used in studies of eyewitness suggestibility to misinformation create ideal conditions for source monitoring errors to occur. Source monitoring is defined as the collection of processes involved in making attributions about the origins of memories (Hashtroudi, Johnson, & Chrosniak, 1989).

Source monitoring refers to the processes that allow people to remember when, where, and how a certain memory was acquired (Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993). Therefore, a source monitoring error can be defined as a failure to remember how information was acquired, despite content knowledge of the information. One of the reasons misinformation procedures would be ideal for source confusion errors to occur is that both the original and the post-event misleading information concern the same topic, they are presented close together in time, and in the same environment. Therefore, the context is more or less the same.

These similarities make it harder for people to discriminate between the original and the misleading post-event information. According to the source misattribution/confusion explanation of the misinformation effect (Lindsay & Johnson, 1987), source confusion occurs regarding the respective origins of both event and post-event information upon an attempt to remember the event. Research shows that it is more difficult for participants to determine under what circumstances different items were experienced than to discriminate between items that were and were not experienced (Lindsay & Johnson, 1987).

Given this notion that explains the misinformation as a source confusion error, we can expect that variables that would increase source confusion errors or disrupt source monitoring would also increase suggestibility to the misinformation effect, and variables that would aid source monitoring should decrease vulnerability to misinformation. The Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) word list paradigm was devised by Deese (1959). This is a procedure where the participants were presented with word lists (e. g.

, thread, pin, eye, sewing, sharp, point, pricked, thimble, haystack, pain, hurt, injection), each of which was semantically associated to a nonstudied critical lure (e. g. , needle). After the presentation of each list, participants were asked to recall the words. Although the lure was not studied, it was falsely recalled 42% of the time. Reodiger and McDermott (1995) replicated Deese’s study with a new set of word lists and also included a recognition test that followed the recall test. Their results showed that participants falsely recalled the nonstudied critical lures on 55% of the lists.

Furthermore, participants falsely recognized the nonstudied critical lures 81% of the time on a subsequent recognition test, which was a rate similar to that for studied list items. Drivdahl & Zaragoza (2001) noted that the DRM task has been frequently used because it is simple and easy to administer, the materials are highly standardized, it produces exceptionally robust false-memory effects, and is a laboratory procedure that allows for a high level of experimental control over manipulations and outcomes (Gallo, 2006). Imagination inflation

The other paradigm that has been used to investigate whether participants may recalls or recognize items in a different context from what was actually presented is the imagination inflation test (Gallo,Weiss, & Schater, 2004). These tests require that participants recollect studying items that satisfy a certain criterion (e. g. , studied as picture vs. studied as words). The condition that some items were studied twice was included to prevent participants from employing concluding, “I remember that this item was studied as a red word, so it could not have been studied as a picture.

” Therefore, participants were required to recollect that the stimulus was studied in the appropriate context (e. g. , pictures on the picture test). Gallo et al. (2004) found that false alarms (FAs) to items studied as red words on the pictures test were lower than those to items presented as pictures on the red word test. Autobiographical writing False or distorted memories can be studied by both autobiographical paradigm of studying false memories.

This often involved interviewing participants on multiple occasions in which they are repeatedly asked to remember childhood experiences. Some of these experiences actually occurred, which were verified by their family members, whereas other experiences did not occur, but were merely suggested by the experimenter. The major question in this procedure is whether participants may be included to generate a false memory of an event that did not happen.

In these experimental investigations, people have been shown to create false memories of such matters as being lost in a small ( Loftus & Pickrell, 1995), making an overnight visit to a hospital (Hyman, Husband, & Billings, 1995), taking a hot air balloon ride (Wade, Garry, Read, & Lindsay, 2002), getting their fingers caught in a mousetrap (Ceci, Huffman, Smith, & Loftus, 1994), and spilling a punchbowl on someone at a wedding reception (Hyman & Pentland, 1996). In general, the results of these studies show that people, when given repeated suggestions, can come to remember events that never happened.

Experimental The experimental paradigm of examining false memories usually involves presenting various stimulus materials to participants, who are later asked to recall what they have studied or to recognized which test items they have studied. In terms of false memories, the major question in this method concerns whether participants may recall or recognize items not previously studied, or may recall or recognize items in a different context from what was actually studied. In such studies, a variety of stimulus materials have been used.

Alternatively, Sommers and Huff (2003), and Sommers and Lewis (1999) presented lists of phonological associates (hot,pot,got,cot,dot,got,etc. ) which are related to nonstudied critical lures (i. e. ,not). The authors found that participants would often falsely recall and recognize the nonstudied critical lures at rates that were very similar to rates true recall and recognition of list items. Likewise, Dewhurst and Anderson (1999), and Dewhurst and Farrand (2004) presented participants with items (orange,pear,banana,etc. ) from the same semantic category (e.

g. , fruit). The researchers found that presentation of common members from the same semantic category leads to false memories of a highly typically but nonstudied category member (i. e. , apple). Goff and Roediger (1998), and Thomas and Loftus (2002) presented action statements (e. g. , flip the coin) to participants who were instructed to their perform the actions, or just imagine performing them. These researchers found that imagining the actions often led participants to falsely remember carrying out the actions when in fact they had not.

Additionally, Finke, Johnson, and Shyi (1988) presented participants with vertically symmetrical geometric shapes, half of which were studied as halves and half of which were studied as wholes. Some participants were instructed to imagine the half forms as complete forms and some were not instructed to do so. The researchers found that, compared with controls, participants who were instructed to imagine the half form as complete had greater difficulty remembering which forms had been studied as wholes and which had been studied as halves.

In addition to studies that have shown that various stimuli can elicit false memories, memory researchers have become increasingly interested in various cognitive monitoring processes that people can use to reduce or avoid false memories. Pierce, Gallo, Weiss, and Schater (2005) used the term “monitoring to refer to the various inferences or decision processes that participants employ to enhance the accuracy of their memory judgments. There are various types of monitoring processes that people can use to improve their memory accuracy.

One of the most fundamental of these processes is source monitoring, which refers to the ability to attribute our memories to a correct source or context (Johnson, Hashtroudi, & Lindsay, 1993). For example, one may correctly remember that it was John, not Bill, who told him or her the story. Closely related to source monitoring is the process of reality monitoring which refers to the ability to discriminate perceived events from imagined events (Johnson 7 Raye, 1981). For example, one may correctly remember taking medication in the monitoring And his recollection does not come from his or her imagination.

According to Johnson et al. (1993), there multiple cues to monitor the source, such as sensory or perceptual information (e. g. , sound and color), contextual information (e. g. , spatial and temporal), semantic details (e. g. , meaning of words), affective information (e. g. , emotional reaction), and cognitive operations (e. g. , records of organizing elaborating, and identifying). One factor that determines the source of a memory is how unique these memory characteristics are. That is, the more similar the memory characteristics from two or more sources, the more difficult it will be to specify the source correctly.

If the memory characteristics of a perceived event are similar to those of an imagined event, reality monitoring will be difficult because of the difficulty in discriminating the perceived event from the imagined event. Schater and colleagues (e. g. , Dodson & Schater, 2002; Israel & Schater, 1997; Schater, Israel & Racine, 199) have proposed another type of monitoring process that they term the “distinctiveness heuristic,” in which the absence of distinctive features of an item provides memorial evidence that a nonstudied item had not been previously presented.

Schater and colleagues have found that when associatively related words (butter, food, eat, sandwich, rye, jam, etc. ) are studied with black and white line drawing at study, participants are less likely to falsely recognize nonstudied critical lures (i. e. , bread) on a later test. The authors argued that participants may expect to recollect the pictorial details of studied items and make their recognition decisions on the presence of these distinctive features. Since nonstudied items would not be accompanied with distinctive picture features, the failure to recollect the expected features would suggest that they were not studied.

Gallo (2004) termed the distinctiveness heuristic a “diagnostic recall-to-reject” process, which occurs when participants recall information that suggest that a critical lure was not studied. In the case of the distinctiveness heuristic, the absence of the distinctive features is diagnostic that a nonstudied lure did not occur. As Gallo has a suggested participants may recall studied items and compare the memorial evidence for the critical lure to that of the studied items. If the memorial evidence for the lure is not as compelling as that for the studied items, the participants are less likely to falsely remember the lure.

In addition to the increasing interest in the monitoring processes that people can use to reduce or avoid false memories, another important aspect of false-memory research that has received emphasis in recent years involves the investigation of individual differences. That is are some individuals particularly susceptible to false memories? Indeed, Gallo (2006) has argued that the investigation of individual differences in false memories may have important practical applications in legal, medical, and clinical settings. Personality Characteristics

Studies of individual differences in false memories have identified some variables that affect false memories, such as hypnotizability (Barnier & McConkey, 1992; Heaps & Nash, 1999; Frost, P. , Sparrow & Barry 2006) and dissociative experiences (Eisen, Winograd, & Qin, 2002; Winograd, Peluso, & Glover, 1998). To assess hypnotizability, Heaps and Nash used the Waterloo-Stanford Scale of Hypnotic Susceptibility (Bowers, 1993, which consists of a series of 11 suggestions given after a hypnotic induction, such as asking participants to extend their right hand and to feel a heavy weight pulling it downward.

To assess dissociative experiences, Heaps and Nash used the Dissociative Experiences Scale (Berstein & Putnam, 1986), which is a self-report questionnaire estimating the frequency of various experiences such as becoming so involved in a fantasy or daydream that it feels as though it were really happening to them. Heaps and Nash found that the extent to which participants falsely remember childhood events was positively correlated with the tendency to respond to hypnotic suggestion and the frequency of dissociative experiences.

Barnier and McConkey, who used a slide sequence of a purse snatching and Sheehan et al. , who used a videotaped bank robbery, found that highly hypnoti in a fantasy or daydream that it feels as though it were really happening to them. Heaps and Nash found that the extent to which participants falsely remember childhood events was positively correlated with the tendency to respond to hypnotic suggestion and the frequency of dissociative experiences. Barnier and McConkey, who used a slide sequence of a purse snatching and Sheehan et al., who used a videotaped bank robbery, found that highly hypnotizable participants were more likely to accept false suggestions and provide false reports than low hypnotizable participants. Eisen et al. , who reviewed various sources of individual differences in false memories, and Winograd et. al. , who used DRM word lists also found that dissociative experiences was positively correlated with false memories. Even though visual images have been known mnemonic technique to improve memory Goff and Roediger (1998) found that repeated imaginings led to false memories.

In facts another potential source of individual differences in false memory is visual mental imagery ability (Eisen et. al. , 2002; Wilkison & Hyman, 1998; Winograd et al. , 1998). People with high visual imagery ability may spontaneously generate such a vivid image of an imagined event that they may find it particularly difficult to discriminate perceived events from imagined events. That is such individuals may find it more difficult to engage in reality monitoring.

Measuring individuals differences in visual mental imagery mat be done on the basis of vividness, controllability and preference (Richardson, 1994). Richardson defined imagery vividness as the clarity, brightness, or intensity of the visual mental representations that one constructs, imagery preferences as the styles one commonly uses to construct mental images (i. e. , visual images, auditory images, and motion images). Several studies have examined individual differences in image vividness for both true and false memories.

In term of true memories, Dobson and Markham 91993) showed participants a short film of a gas station robbery. Then participants read a series of statement regarding the film, some of which were accurate and some of which were inaccurate. Finally, participants read a second series of statements and indicated whether the information in these statements had been studied previously. If the statement had been studied before, they were asked to state if the statement had appeared in the film only, or in both.

Dobson and Markham found that people who reported particularly vivid visual images exhibited levels of true recognition that were equivalent to those of participants who reported low vividness of their visual images. Similar results were found even though intentional imaging instruction was given to form visual images of a crime scene (Eberman & McKelvie, 2002), to imagine half geometric shapes as complete forms (Markham & Hynes, 1993), and to form images associated with the DRM words (Marmurek & Hamilton, 2000). In term of false memories, Wilkinson and Hyman (1998), and Wingorad et al.

(1998) found that vividness of visual imagery was positively correlated with false memories of nonstudied critical lures from DRM words list, whereas Eberman and McKelvie (2002) found individual differences in imagery ability on false memories only when participants were instructed to form visual images. After listening to an audiotape describing a crime event, participants read a narrative paragraph that included both old new statement of the crime. Participants then took recognition testy to judge whether each written statement had or had not occurred previously.

If the statement had occurred previously, participants then judged whether it had appeared in the audiotape only, the text only, or in both. During the listening and reading phases, half of the participants were instructed to form visual images of the scene and half of the participants were asked just to pay attention the audiotape. Results showed that high vividness images falsely attributed the text information to the audio source significantly more that did the low vividness images, but only when they were given instruction to form visual images. Similar results were found with symmetrical geometric shapes (Markham & Hynes, 1993).

However, without giving instruction to form visual images, Dobson and Markham (1993) found no differences between low imagers and high imagers at discriminating the source of film materials. The effect of instructions to form visual images on false memories has been found not only with laboratory materials, but also with autobiographical memory regardless of imaging abilities. Instructions to form visual images in autobiographical memory studies usually involve asking participants to imagine an erroneous event suggested by the experimenter, and then later describing the imagined event in detail.

Participants receiving such guided imagery instruction were more likely than those who did not receive such instructions to create false childhood memories (Hyman, Gilstrap, Decker, & Wilkinson, 1998; Hyman & Pentland, 1996). Results and Conclusion To summarize the research on individual differences in susceptibility to false memories, three important findings should be noted. First, high vividness imagers exhibited higher levels of false memories than did low vividness imagers under instructions to form visual images (Eberman & McKelvie, 2002, Markham & Hynes, 1993).

Second high vividness imagers did not exhibit higher levels of false memories than did low vividness imagers when no instructions to form visual images were given (Dobson & Markham, 1993). Third, high vividness imagers exhibited levels of true recognition that are equivalent to those of low vividness imagers no matter whether instruction to form visual images were given (Dobson & Markham, 1993; Eberman & McKelvie, 2002, Markham & Hynes, 1993; Hamilton, 2000). This research paper examines the individual differences susceptibility to false memories.

Dobson and Markham (1993) did not find any individual differences in visual imagery ability on false memories of a short film of a gas station robbery. This study used concrete words that may be easier than the short film to generate visual images and to detect individual differences in imagery ability on false memories. The first research question was whether high vividness imagers would exhibit higher levels of false memories than would low vividness imagers when instruction to form visual images, they should be more susceptible to reality monitoring errors even when instructions to form visual imagers are not given.

Then, the second research question was whether such individual differences would be even greater when participants were given imaging instructions. If high vividness imagers do not spontaneously generate visual images, they should not experience more reality monitoring errors than low vividness imagers when instructions to form visual images are not given. To elicit visual images, the study used the concrete words and pictures stimuli from Gallo et al. , (2004). These stimuli are well suited for the study because words that are high in concreteness also tend to be high in imageability.

Therefore, these stimuli should be easier than a film to elicit mental images from participants even without instruction to form visual images. To elicit false memories, the study used the critical recollection tests developed by Gallo et al. These tests are well suited for this study because they require participants to recollect studying items that satisfy a certain criterion. Therefore, these tests should be more stringent than standard recognition tests that were commonly used in previous studies on individual differences in imagery ability on false memories. REFERENCES Barnier, J.

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