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PS114: Research Methods in

Introduction to Lab Class 1
False Memory
Week 6
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Memory failure
An event occurs and you witness it but later you have
no (poor or distorted) memory for it
If asked at the time you would describe the event
An event did NOT occur but later you thought that it
had occurred
If asked at the time you would say the event did
not occur

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Remembering an event
A description of the event is stored when the event
occurs (memory trace)
When you remember the event you retrieve or
access the memory trace
Details of the event become available
Some details may be lost or confused with other

Thursday, October 27, 2011

False memory
How can you remember an event that did not occur?
Create a memory trace as if the event occurred
Lead the participant to believe that the event
Get participant to think about the event
Participant may confuse what was thought with what
was witnessed

Thursday, October 27, 2011

False memory has important legal implications:
Bias of witnesses (memory distortion) by interrogation
False memories arising during extensive

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roediger & McDermott (1995)

Highly influential study of false memory
False memories can occur
in the laboratory
over short time scales
reliably produced by word associations

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Word associations
to find the associates of a word
give the word as a cue
ask the participant for a response
the general idea is that when the cue word is read
other associated words are activated
If I say cat you might think dog

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roediger & McDermott

They presented short word lists where all items were
associates of a critical word or lure
Immediate free recall of each list
After a delay, recognition of the words was tested
Recognition test consisted of words presented on the
list (old words)
And words not presented on list (new words)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roediger & McDermotts stimuli

The 96 words used during the study phase were a subset of
words taken from lists of 16 words each.
Each list had a theme.
During recognition phase, participants were presented with
48 old words and 48 new words
The 48 old words were a selection from the study set, with
equal numbers from each of the lists used.
The 48 new words were either taken from unused lists or
were lures
Lures are words taken from the same lists as words
presented in the study phase, but not previously presented.
Thursday, October 27, 2011


If CHAIR is the critical lure

List items are associates: table, seat, legs, sofa,
Recognition test consists of:
old words: table, seat, legs, sofa,
new words: dog, station, friend, flower
critical lure: chair

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Recognition test
Words were shown singly, participants made old-new
judgments (is the word old or new).
If they thought the word was old, they should also
make a remember-know judgment.
A remember judgment is given when the participant
can mentally relive the experience of seeing the
A know judgment is defined as a high confidence
that the item occurred in the list, but the participant is
unable to re-experience their exposure to the word.
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Seven times more study words were classified as
old than new words (memory).
The proportion of critical lures classified as old was
equal to the proportion of study words.
Furthermore, the proportions of critical lures
classified as remembered or known were equal to
those for study words.
Participants were unable to distinguish items actually
presented from the critical lures.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Why does false memory

When the study words are presented, associates
activate the critical word
When you see seat you think chair
Your memory for the words is based on what words
you thought about while the list was presented
Hence you falsely recognize critical lures related to
study words

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lab Experiment
A variation on Roediger and McDermott
Some aspects will be the same
Same stimuli: we will use words from their lists, both
during the study phase and during the recognition
Same structure: study list; filled retention interval;
recognition test

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Lab Experiment
A variation on Roediger and McDermott
Other aspects will be different
Task: participants will be asked to rate their
confidence that they recognize or do not recognize
the word
The total list of 96 words will be randomly presented,
rather than in their individual groups.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Independent variable: (manipulated by experimenter)
Type of word
Three levels: old words, new words, and critical
Dependent variable: (measure of performance)
Recognition confidence rating

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Randomizing the Study list

It is conceivable that participants are encouraged to
think of a theme for the words that are presented in
This experiment will randomize the entire study list

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Study phase:
96 words: 12 words each from 8 of R&Ms lists
Recognition phase:
40 old words: five of the words previously seen, taken
from each of the 8 study-phase lists
8 critical lures: the 8 themes of the above lists
48 new words: 6 words each from 8 of R&Ms lists,
NOT previously presented
Thursday, October 27, 2011

If lures are falsely recognized due to their association with
the study words, then
Participants will be confident they recognize the old
words, and also confident they do not recognize the new
Critical lures will be recognized the same as old words.
The above two findings would allow us to replicate and
support the results of Roediger and McDermott (1995).
Thursday, October 27, 2011

But, if lures are falsely recognized due to participants being
encouraged to think of themes for the free recall task
used by R&M, then randomizing the study list should
eliminate the effect and
Participants will be confident they recognize the old
words, and also confident they do not recognize the new
Critical lures will be recognized the same as new words.
Thursday, October 27, 2011

Or something in between
It may be the case that randomizing the study list
weakens but does not eliminate the false memory effect.
What pattern of result do you think might happen in that

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Roediger and McDermott

Roediger, H.L., III and McDermott, K.B. (1995). Creating
false memories: Remembering words not presented in lists,
Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and
Cognition 21, 803-814.
Available from short loan as XD6636, or from PsychArticles
online, or from the librarys online resources, or here: article PDFs\Roediger and McDermott 1995.pdf

Thursday, October 27, 2011

On Thursday
Data Collection 2.708
See your personal timetable for your start time
(2pm, 3pm or 4pm)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Next week
Generalization and sample size
Howitt & Cramer, Ch. 4

Thursday, October 27, 2011