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False memory production

False Memory Production

False Memory Production: Can The DRM Paradigm be Used Visually?

In the past couple of decades a very interesting topic has come into the spotlight, the existence and creation of false memories. False memories have been defined as "either remembering events that never happened, or remembering them quite differently from the way they happened" (Roediger & Mc Dermot, 1995, p.803). This topic opens many doors for research and raises questions about the reliability and susceptibility of people’s memory.

One area where the possibility of false memories has been raised is in child sexual abuse cases (CSA). Now that there is evidence that memories can seem real to the individual despite being are false, caused by other factors such as suggestibility, there is a considerable debate about the reliability of people’s accounts of CSA. There have been many cases where people who have claimed to be abused sexually, by parents or others, have been led to their beliefs by a therapist or other factors such as coping or defense mechanisms. For example, Kaplan and Manicavasagar have reported on three specific cases where people were falsely led to believe, by their therapist, they were sexually abused as children or as adults. This was done using leading questioning during hypnosis, posing hypothetical situations to their patients and insisting that their patients think about the abuse until they believe that it is real, or until they have a memory of the abuse (Kaplan & Manicavasagar, 2001).

The study of false memories is particularly important because these false accusations based on false memories could lead to many problems in court cases, and problems with the reliability of witnesses. It is important to understand how to question someone without leading them or eliciting a false response. Therefore, considerable research has been done with word associations, word lists, and various other paradigms to find the prevalence of false memories and the extent to which people are suggestible.

Roediger and McDermott have done seminal research with the creation of their Deese/Roediger and McDermott paradigm (DRM) for creating false memories. This paradigm uses lure word lists, made up of 16 associate words, to obtain the response of a critical word that is also an associate word from the word lists but is not present in the list of words. This is an example of the lure word associate list: thread, pin, eye, sewing, sharp, point, prick, thimble, haystack, thorn, hurt, injection, syringe, cloth, knitting. The critical word, needle, would be the falsely recalled word from this list. The number of times the critical word was remembered was significant and the subjects reported high levels of confidence when remembering the critical word (Roediger & McDermott, 1995).

Gallo, Roberts & Seamon (1997) used a variation of the Deese/Roediger and McDermott paradigm to try to "avoid" creating false memories in their participants. In this study they wanted to see if informing subjects about false memories to varying degrees would affect how many times they remembered the critical word. They used the DRM word list, and created three groups, a control (who was not informed of false memories), a partially informed group (who were told to be careful), and an informed group (who were told of false memories and critical words). The groups were all given a questionnaire at the end to discuss the tactics they employed to remember the words. The results showed that although the three groups all employed different tactics to list the words, the informed group did not have significantly fewer false memories. The only strategic difference was that while listening to the list, the informed group was looking for the critical word (Gallo, Roberts, & Seamon, 1997!

). This shows that even if people are made aware of the occurrence of false memories, they could still be susceptible to them. This could apply to the occurrence of false child sexual abuse accounts. Even if people are made aware by a therapist that memories can be influenced, there is still a good chance that their therapist could influence their memory.

Roediger, Jacoby and McDermott (1996) took a different perspective in their study of false memory production. This study used the eyewitness paradigm in which the subjects view a slide presentation of a specific event then read a brief narrative about the event. Then the subjects’ recall was tested that day and two days later. They were asked to recall information about the slides and not the narrative. They recalled information from the narrative, claming that they were very sure that it was part of the slide presentation. The information from this study is important because it takes false memory production away from list learning and applies it to scenarios that are quite plausible. If the slide presentation had been an actual event, such as an eyewitness to an accident, the time at which the individual is questioned is important, because delay could cause the individual to produce unintentional false accounts of the situation, especially, if he/she discusses the incident with other individuals (Roediger, Jacoby & McDermott, 1996).

The research on false memory production is very important, and can play a valuable role in our understanding of and the believability of accounts made by individuals, whether it is sexual abuse, witnessing an accident, or just remembering small daily events.

Recently, Roediger and McDermott have examined factors that reduce recall of the critical word in the DRM paradigm. They point out several lists, in which the critical word is recalled more often than others. They want to explain the wide variability in effectiveness of the lists in the DRM paradigm. They predicted that the backward associative strength (BAS, the average tendency for the list words to elicit the recall of the critical word) and connectivity (the mean associative strength) are the best predictors of the differences observed in false recall among critical items. They found a positive correlation between both of these variables. The higher the associative connections between the words, the more recall should increase, the lower the connections (Roediger & McDermott, 2001).

This leads to the present study in which I would like to see if there is a significant difference between recall of critical words from the lists in the DRM paradigm when the words are read to the participants at the rate of one word every 1.5 seconds, or when the lists are presented visually on an overhead projector, making the lists available to the participants for exactly 24 seconds (this allows 1.5 seconds of reading time for each word). The purpose of this study is to determine if reading versus speaking the lists creates higher amounts of recall of the critical word from the Deese/Roediger and McDermott paradigm. Since there is a correlation between BAS and connectivity in the recall of words form the DRM paradigm, I choose the same lists for both the visual and the auditory groups that have relatively equal and average BAS scores, as suggested by Roediger and McDermott (2001). The lists in this study also have relatively same word lengths for all of the words including the critical word, which is recalled by the participants. The hope was for a significant difference in the two groups in this study, to determine which method provided more false recall. The hypothesis of this study is that if the list used in the presentation of the DRM paradigm are relatively equal in word length and mean Bas scores, and are presented with equal amounts of time for each word, then there still should be a significant difference in the number of times the critical word is remembered when the list are presented visually or read to the participants to the participants. The design of this experiment has one independent variable presented in two levels and is a completely between subject design. I am testing two different levels and will use different groups for the levels.

Method

Participants

The participants for this study were chosen at random from the participant pool, provided by the psychology department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

There were forty participants female total, 11 male and 29 female, divided into two groups. One group was the auditory group (15 females and 5 males) and they met on November 15 and the other group was the visual group (14 females and 6 males) and they met on November 16. The participants, who signed up, received credit in their undergraduate psychology classes of their participation. The participants chose which group they would participate in by signing up the sheets I provided in the psychology department. All of the participants signed up for this study by their own free will, and each participant signed a consent form upon entering the room where the study was being conducted. The consent forms were kept away from the participant’s answers at all times to protect their privacy. The participants were also told they could leave at any time without penalization. As a thank you to my participants, they were given a lollipop at the end of the study. I felt this was appropriate considering they volunteered their time to me.

Materials

The materials in this study consisted of four list from the Deese/Roediger and McDermott paradigm, using the same list for both levels tested. The lists were chosen from the appendix of the Roediger and McDermott (2001) study (see appendix for the lists). They were chosen based on similarity of their mean BAS scores and word length in attempt to keep all parts of the study equal. The word lists that were used for the two groups were; sweet (mean BAS= .172), foot (mean BAS= .177), soft (mean BAS= .170), and slow (mean BAS= .179). Also, an appropriate room, containing an overhead projector was provided by the psychology department at UNC Charlotte.

Procedure

This study was conducted in a room assigned by the psychology department at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Upon arrival, the participants signed a consent form and then were asked to listen, or read, depending on the level being tested, the words presented to them from the DRM lists. The participants were told that they would be asked to recall the words immediately following the presentation of the lists. They were also informed that they could leave at any time during the study without penalization, and were also asked to hand in their consent forms before the list were given, this was done to protect their anonymity.

After the presentation of each list, the participants were asked to write the words they recalled on a blank sheet of paper, provided for them when they entered the room. They were also asked not to put their names any where on these pages. This was also done for the sake of anonymity. This process was repeated for both groups. The responses were then put into a scale which ranged from 0-4; a zero score means one of he critical words form the lists were remembered, and one point for every critical word that is remembered, if the participants received a four, they recalled all of the possible critical words. These results were analyzed for significance using paired t-tests from the SPSS computer program provided by UNC Charlotte.

Results

A paired t-test was used to attain the results of this study. This provided a mean score for each of the two groups. The scores could range from 0-4 depending on how many words were recalled from the lists. The auditory group recalled the critical words from the lists more often (M=1.75, sd=1.16) than the visual group (M= .950, sd= .944),

t (19) = 2.79, p* .05. There was a significant difference found at the .05 level. Not only did the visual group remember fewer words, on average, they remembered more original words from the list than the auditory group. The auditory remembered an average of 5 words per list while the visual group remembered an average of 8 words per list.

General Discussion

The results of this study supported the original hypothesis, which stated there would be a significant difference between the visual and auditory methods of presenting the DRM paradigm. The results indicated that the auditory group remembered more of the critical words from the word lists. This suggests that the usual way of presenting the DRM paradigm (by reading the list) may be the best way to achieve false recollections in participants. However, if fewer false recollections are desired, it seems to be a better idea to present information visually. Another advantage to presenting lists visually was that with this method the participants remembered more words from each list, while recalling the critical word fewer times.

A factor that could have affected the outcome of this study was, the visual group was only allowed to see the list for 24 seconds which is approximately one word per 1.5 seconds, which is equal to the time that words are presented to the auditory group, however, since some people read faster than others, faster readers could have reviewed the words if they finished reading the list before I took it off the overhead. With the auditory group, there was no review of the list because the words were read one time only. This could be a factor that determines why the visual group recalled the critical words less often, however, I did not feel there was a way to remove this factor. In reality, people can scan something visually several times in the same amount of time it takes a person to listen to something and process the information that they heard, this strengthening the case for presenting information visually.

Since the reliability of memories have come in to question in court cases and other scenarios requiring people to remember events or happenings since the start of false memory studies, it is important to know that there could a significant difference in things people remember when they hear information versus when people see information. It would be interesting to take the study of visual false recollection further to find fallibilities and strengths in peoples memory with visual information and to find paradigms that can accurately test our memories of visual perceptions. If visual information is actually remembered better than auditory information beyond using the DRM paradigm, then important information that needs to be remembered should probably be presented to a person visually.

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