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The influence of linguistic labels on source-monitoring decisions

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Three studies explored the extent to which people use various object features, including linguistic label, shape, and category membership, to make decisions about the source of their memories. To isolate the influence of each feature, we used items that were related in the following four ways: as synonyms, as similar in shape and category membership, as homographs, or as unrelated. Participants read sentences and either saw or imagined a picture of the critical word's referent. Experiment 1 showed that participants committed more source errors for synonyms (e.g., rabbit and bunny) than for objects that were conceptually and perceptually similar (e.g., doughnut and bagel), which produced more errors than unrelated items. However, there was no effect of label, as people did not have more errors for homographs (e.g., baseball bat and flying bat) than unrelated items. In Experiment 2, presenting the critical word at study was not sufficient to lead people to use an item's label to make source decisions. However, Experiment 3 showed more source errors for homographs than unrelated pairs when semantic context was minimised at study, suggesting that people can use linguistic labels to make source decisions when other information is unavailable.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Washington University, St. Louis, MO, USA 2: State University of New York at Stony Brook, USA

Publication date: September 1, 2004

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