Adults' Memories of Childhood: True and False Reports

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Abstract

In 3 experiments, the authors examined factors that, according to the source-monitoring framework, might influence false memory formation and true/false memory discernment. In Experiment 1, combined effects of warning and visualization on false childhood memory formation were examined, as were individual differences in true and false childhood memories. Combining warnings and visualization led to the lowest false memory and highest true memory. Several individual difference factors (e.g., parental fearful attachment style) predicted false recall. In addition, true and false childhood memories differed (e.g., in amount of information). Experiment 2 examined relations between Deese/Roediger-McDermott task performance and false childhood memories. Deese/Roediger-McDermott performance (e.g., intrusion of unrelated words in free recall) was associated with false childhood memory, suggesting liberal response criteria in source decisions as a common underlying mechanism. Experiment 3 investigated adults' abilities to discern true and false childhood memory reports (e.g., by detecting differences in amount of information as identified in Experiment 1). Adults who were particularly successful in discerning such reports indicated reliance on event plausibility. Overall, the source-monitoring framework provided a viable explanatory framework. Implications for theory and clinical and forensic interviews are discussed.

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