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Inferential false memories of events: Negative consequences protect from distortions when the events are free from further elaboration

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The present experiment was conducted to investigate whether negative emotionally charged and arousing content of to-be-remembered scripted material would affect propensity towards memory distortions. We further investigated whether elaboration of the studied material through free recall would affect the magnitude of memory errors. In this study participants saw eight scripts. Each of the scripts included an effect of an action, the cause of which was not presented. Effects were either negatively emotional or neutral. Participants were assigned to either a yes/no recognition test group (recognition), or to a recall and yes/no recognition test group (elaboration + recognition). Results showed that participants in the recognition group produced fewer memory errors in the emotional condition. Conversely, elaboration + recognition participants had lower accuracy and produced more emotional memory errors than the other group, suggesting a mediating role of semantic elaboration on the generation of false memories. The role of emotions and semantic elaboration on the generation of false memories is discussed.
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Keywords: Emotions; Memory distortions; Remember/familiar judgements; Semantic elaboration

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of General Psychology, University of Padova, Italy 2: Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, Norway

Publication date: July 4, 2014

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