Challenging Memories in Children and Adults Using an Imagination Inflation Procedure

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Research on how people respond to social challenges to existing memories indicates that they sometimes defend belief in the veridicality of the memory, and sometimes relinquish belief in memories. In some instances, they report retaining a strong sense of recollection despite the loss of belief. The current research explored how adults and children respond to social challenges to recalled events using an adaptation of Goff and Roediger’s (1998) imagination inflation procedure. Adult participants performed, imagined, or heard action statements (e.g., break the toothpick), imagined actions multiple times, and 2 weeks later completed a recognition test in which they made source monitoring judgments for 113 actions. For actions indicated by participants as “performed,” randomly selected items were challenged via verbal feedback suggesting that the action was not originally performed. Study 1 included 30 adult participants who received a total of 142 challenges. The memory was defended for 61.3% (retaining believed memories) and belief or recollection was relinquished for 38.7% of challenged items. In Study 2, 31 children aged 7 to 8 years received 187 challenges. The memory was defended for 48.9% and belief or recollection was relinquished for 51.1% of challenged items. The method elicited both defense and memory relinquishment of memories in a majority of participants. In both experiments, challenges to true memories were less likely to be accepted than challenges to false memories.

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