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Do emotional stimuli enhance or impede recall relative to neutral stimuli? An investigation of two “false memory” tasks

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Many eyewitness memory situations involve negative and distressing events; however, many studies investigating “false memory” phenomena use neutral stimuli only. The aim of the present study was to determine how both the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) procedure and the Misinformation Effect Paradigm tasks were related to each other using distressing and neutral stimuli. Participants completed the DRM (with negative and neutral word lists) and viewed a distressing or neutral film. Misinformation for the film was introduced and memory was assessed. Film accuracy and misinformation susceptibility were found to be greater for those who viewed the distressing film relative to the neutral film. Accuracy responses on both tasks were related, however, susceptibility to the DRM illusion and Misinformation Effect were not. The misinformation findings support the Paradoxical Negative Emotion (PNE) hypothesis that negative stimuli will lead to remembering more accurate details but also greater likelihood of memory distortion. However, the PNE hypothesis was not supported for the DRM results. The findings also suggest that the DRM and Misinformation tasks are not equivalent and may have differences in underlying mechanisms. Future research should focus on more ecologically valid methods of assessing false memory.
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Keywords: DRM; distress; emotion; false memory; misinformation effect

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: School of Psychology, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia 2: School of Psychology, University of New South Wales, Sydney, NSW, Australia

Publication date: September 14, 2017

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