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So that's why I don't remember: Normalising forgetting of childhood events influences false autobiographical beliefs but not memories

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We investigated changes in autobiographical belief and memory ratings for childhood events, after informing individuals that forgetting childhood events is common. Participants received false prevalence information (indicating that a particular childhood event occurred frequently in the population) plus a rationale normalising the forgetting of childhood events; false prevalence information alone; or no manipulation, for one (Study 1) or two (Study 2) unlikely childhood events. Results demonstrated that combining prevalence information and the "forgetting rationale" substantially influenced autobiographical belief ratings, whereas prevalence information alone had no impact (Study 1) or a significantly lesser impact (Study 2) on belief ratings. Prevalence information consistently impacted plausibility ratings. No changes in memory ratings were observed. These results provide further support for a nested relationship between judgements of plausibility, belief, and memory in evaluating the occurrence of autobiographical events. Furthermore, the results suggest that some purported false memory phenomena may instead reflect the development of autobiographical false beliefs in the absence of memory.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: University of Windsor, ON, Canada 2: Binghamton University, NY, USA

Publication date: November 1, 2007

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