Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Educational Psychology and Special Education

First Advisor

Karen Michele Zabrucky, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Ann Cale Kruger, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Phillip Gagne, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Nannette Commander, Ph.D.

Abstract

In the current literature review I examine false memory research, including variables that affect memory accuracy, instrumentation, and analyses used to assess false memory construction, as well as possible frameworks accounting for the development of false memories. Do errors in memory occur during encoding of an event or during retrieval of a memory? I discuss two models of false memories, both born from the source-monitoring framework, to highlight the important cognitive processes leading to crucial errors in memory recall. In the study that follows I investigate whether repeated imaginings of an implausible autobiographical event will lead to the creation of false memories. Plausibility, in the form of prevalence ratings, and visual imagery are manipulated for six suggested events that could have occurred during childhood. A model proposed by Pezdek and colleagues supports the roles of plausibility and imagination in false memory construction (Pezdek, Finger & Hodge, 1997; Pezdek, Blandon-Gitlin & Gabbay, 2006). However, their model is based on research conducted using a Life Events Inventory, a survey that assesses a belief rather than a memory construct. In the present study, I use the Autobiographical Belief and Memory Questionnaire, a survey instrument that distinctly measures plausibility, belief and memory (Scoboria, Mazzoni, Kirsch & Relyea, 2004). Confirmatory factor analysis is employed for instrument validation, followed by a 2 (plausibility: high or low) x 3 (number of imaginings: 0, 1, 5) x 2 (time: pre or post) within subjects ANOVA to test the Pezdek model of false memory construction. Both belief and memory ratings increase significantly when imagination is employed, regardless of event plausibility. However, memory ratings increase as the number of imaginings increase. Belief ratings only increase with one imagining. Present results provide insight into the role of visual imagery on memory accuracy, and inform researchers of appropriate survey instruments and statistical analyses to detect false memories. False memory research is valuable for informing therapeutic techniques, evaluating the reliability of eyewitness testimony, and advising interrogation procedures used by law enforcement and legal officials.

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