Encoding focus alters diagnostic recollection and event-related potentials (ERPs)

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Abstract

The influence of encoding focus on source memory was investigated using event-related potentials (ERPs). Encoding was focused on the self (self-focus) or on the speaker (other-focus) while hearing words spoken in a male or female voice. Examination of the behavioral and ERP evidence suggests that encoding focus alters the amount of diagnostic recollection. Self-focus encoding produced more positive encoding ERPs, led to greater old/new recognition, and elicited a greater Late Positive Component (LPC; the putative neural correlate of recollection) during the source test. Other-focus encoding led to greater source memory and a smaller LPC amplitude. Collectively, the results suggest that encoding focus alters the information bound in the memory trace that leads to varying levels of source-diagnostic features. Drawing attention to the speaker facilitates binding of source-diagnostic features (i.e., voice), whereas self-focus encoding facilitates binding a host of non-diagnostic features. The results have important implications for situations that depend on encoding processes, such as false memory or classroom learning, and they provide evidence that the LPC tracks recollected details but not necessarily diagnostic recollection.

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