Running head: False Memory
Theoretical and Applied/Practical Perspective of False Memory The human memory is subject to a multitude of errors, including source misattributions, distortion and creation of false memories. In order to do justice to this paper one must first determine what is “False memory”? False memory is memory for an event that did not occur or distorted memory of actual events (Gleaves, Smith, Butler, & Spiegel, 2004). This type of memory has been an area of intense research interest for both theoretical and practical reasons and psychologists have long been interested in memory illusions and distortions, as such errors can inform theories of how the memory works (Hunt & Ellis, 2004).
From a theoretical perspective, false memories have been the subject of intense debates about the nature of human memory and a focal point for old and new memory theories. Memories are not simply stored and retrieved, information is encoded and memories are reconstructed using previous knowledge to piece together the situation as one thinks it occurred (Loftus & Ketchan, 1994). Therefore perception and comprehension of ongoing events always brings related information to mind. For example, an individual mentions that he/she had a great trip to the beach over the weekend. In comprehending what the individual is saying; one may imagine their last visit to Miami Beach. Later one remembers that the said individual mentioned his/her visit to Miami Beach when, in fact, the individual said nothing about which beach he/she visited. This example illustrates how frequently one might remember information related to ones ongoing perception and comprehension, even though the events represented by that information never occurred (Hunt & Ellis, 2004). One of the most common ways that false memories have been studied is through the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) effect. This list learning paradigm provided a traceable means by which false memories can be created and studied in the laboratory. Gallo, McDermott, Percer & Roediger III (2001) explained that the DRM paradigm was a method of using converging semantic associates to induce false memories. It basically referred to the high confidence false recall or recognition of the critical lure. Within the study subjects were given a list of words for immediate free recall. These words were all associated semantically with a critical lure which itself was not presented. For example, if the critical lure was sleep the list would have consisted of fifteen words most highly associated with sleep such as bed to the least highly associated which would be drowsy on free association norms. Even though the critical lure was not on the list, subjects often falsely reported it and on recognition tests, these individuals often “remember” these words with a high degree of confidence (Surgrue & Hayne, 2006). False memories arising from phonologically associated lists may indeed be enhanced by phonological encoding in comparison with semantic encoding. False memories therefore can be elicited by presenting lists of phonologically related words in both recognition and recall tasks (Chan, McDermott, Watson & Gallo, 2005).
According to the fuzzy traced theory (as cited in Howe, 2008), subjects encode both verbatim information about the experience to gist information about the experience. Applied to the DRM paradigm gist information represents the semantic commonalities among lure’s studied associates, which lead the fuzzy trace theory to propose that lure errors are familiarity based (Arndt, 2010). Memory errors to unstudied items arise from how well they match gist traces and that memory errors are limited by the extent to which unstudied items produce retrieval of verbatim traces. Therefore lure errors increase when they match the gists representation of their studied associates but decrease when retrieval is inspired of the verbatim traces of their studied associates (Howe,...
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