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Experiment Author: Adapted from STEP and used with permission of Brian MacWhinney
This experiment investigated the ability of participants to create false memories of words that are related to words they have heard in a list. Lists were intentionally structured so that participants would recall a particular word. For instance, one list included words like “bed”, “rest”, “awake”, and “tired”, and participants were expected to recall “sleep”.
In this experiment there are two sections. For each trial in the first section, participants view a set of 14 words which display for 1500 milliseconds each. After the word list, a dialogue box appears and participants recall as many words as possible, pressing enter after typing each individual word. To continue to the next trial leave the dialogue box blank and press enter. There are 16 trials in this section.
Participants move on to the next section and see another list of words. Press "1" if the word was displayed in the first section and Press "2" if the word was not displayed. There are 96 words in this section.
Creating false memories: Remembering words not presented in lists. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, & Cognition Vol. 21(4), Jul 1995, 803-814
Cited Experiment Abstract
Two experiments (modeled after J. Deese’s 1959 study) revealed remarkable levels of false recall and false recognition in a list learning paradigm. In experiment 1, subjects studied lists of 12 words (e.g., bed, rest, awake); each list was composed of associates of 1 non-presented word (e.g., sleep). On immediate free recall tests, the non-presented associates were recalled 40% of the time and were later recognized with high confidence. In Experiment 2, a false recall rate of 55% was obtained with an expanded set of lists, and on a later recognition test, subjects produced false alarms to these items at a rate comparable to the hit rate. The act of recall enhanced later remembering of both studied and non-studied material. The results reveal a powerful illusion of memory: People remember events that never happened.
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