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False memories from survival processing make better primes for problem-solving

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

Journal publication date2014
JournalMemory
Journal number1
Volume22
Number of pages10
Pages9-18
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

Previous research has demonstrated that participants remember significantly more survival-related information and more information that is processed for its survival relevance. Recent research has also shown that survival materials and processing result in more false memories, ones that are adaptive inasmuch as they prime solutions to insight-based problems. Importantly, false memories for survival-related information facilitate problem solving more than false memories for other types of information. The present study explores this survival advantage using an incidental rather than intentional memory task. Here, participants rated information either in the context of its importance to survival-processing scenario or to moving to a new house. Following this, participants solved a number of compound remote associate tasks (CRATs), half of which had the solution primed by false memories that were generated during the processing task. Results showed that (a) CRATs were primed by false memories in this incidental task, with participants solving significantly more CRATs when primed than when unprimed, (b) this effect was greatest when participants rated items for survival than moving, and (c) processing items for a survival scenario improved overall problem solving performance even when specific problems themselves were not primed. Results are discussed with regard to adaptive theories of memory.