The influence of semantic context on false memories

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Although false memories have largely been examined with the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm, little research has focused on the semantic context in which associates are encoded. Across three experiments, we varied semantic context during a sentence-processing task with DRM associates embedded within sentences. More meaningful sentences resulted in greater memory errors (Experiment 1). Furthermore, providing contextual information to discriminate old from new items did not reduce false alarms relative to encoding words in isolation when sentences converged on the meaning of the critical lure (Experiment 2), and actually increased memory errors (Experiment 3). These results suggest that semantic context that allows for meaningful relational processing of items within-lists and that converge on the semantic meaning of the critical lure increases the likelihood that the list theme is identified, resulting in more errors at test.

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Memory & cognition

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