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On the susceptibility of adaptive memory to false memory illusions

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>05/2010
Issue number2
Number of pages16
Pages (from-to)252-267
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Previous research has shown that survival-related processing of word lists enhances retention for that material. However, the claim that survival-related memories are more accurate has only been examined when true recall and recognition of neutral material has been measured. In the current experiments, we examined the adaptive memory superiority effect for different types of processing and material, measuring accuracy more directly by comparing true and false recollection rates. Survival-related information and processing was examined using word lists containing backward associates of neutral, negative, and survival-related critical lures and type of processing (pleasantness, moving, survival) was varied using an incidental memory paradigm. Across four experiments, results showed that survival-related words were more susceptible than negative and neutral words to the false memory illusion and that processing information in terms of its relevance to survival independently increased this susceptibility to the false memory illusion. Overall, although survival-related processing and survival-related information resulted in poorer, not more accurate, memory, such inaccuracies may have adaptive significance. These findings are discussed in the context of false memory research and recent theories concerning the importance of survival processing and the nature of adaptive memory. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.