Are recovered memories accurate?
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Research in our laboratory has demonstrated blocked and recovered memories within the context of a controlled experiment. The comparative memory paradigm allows for comparisons of recovered memories, continuous memories, and false memories. Additional research in our laboratory has shown two distinct types of memory errors; semantic based errors which occur due to pre-existing category knowledge, and episodic based errors in which the source of details (list members) are misattributed. Independently, these two lines of research have illuminated basic memory processes, however, they have not been combined previously. That is, the experiments in the present study explore the susceptibility of recovered memories to semantic and episodic based errors relative to continuous memories. Experiment 1 replicated the large blocking and recovery effects previously found by our laboratory. Additionally, it demonstrated that recovered memories were no more prone to semantic based errors than were continuous memories. These errors occurred very infrequently despite the use of materials chosen specifically to induce such errors. Experiment 2 again replicated the large blocking and recovery effects. The equivalent low rate of semantic based errors was also replicated. However, Experiment 2 also revealed that recovered memories were more susceptible to episodic based errors than were continuous memories. This was especially true when the memory block occurred in an interference treatment condition. Finally, post-recall source recognition tests failed to improve memory accuracy. In fact, numerically both semantic based and episodic based errors increased on the source recognition test relative to the cued recall test. Findings are discussed in relation to the source monitoring and fuzzy-trace theories of memory as well as the legal and clinical recovered memory controversy.
Gerkens, David (2003). Are recovered memories accurate?. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Texas A&M University. Available electronically from
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