False memory production: effects of self-consistent false information and motivated cognition
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Remembrance of one's personal past and the development of false memories have recently received intense public scrutiny. Based upon self-schema (Markus, 1977) and selfverification (Swann, 1987) theories, two studies were conducted to investigate the hypothesis that a self-schema guides cognitive processing of self-relevant information and thereby influences the construction of a memory that includes false information, particularly more so if this information is self-schema consistent than inconsistent. Study 2 also investigated the hypothesis that the cognitive processing goal of understanding a negative outcome (motivated cognition) would interact with self-consistent expectations to enhance the likelihood that a false memory would be created. Self-schematic Type A and Type B individuals (only self-schematic Type A individuals participated in Study 2) participated in a team problem solving task (the to-be-remembered event) and returned a week later for a "questionnaire" session during which a narrative was read that contained self-consistent or self-discrepant false information. In both studies, chi-square analyses showed participants given self-consistent false information were more likely to report this information on a recall and a recognition test than were participants given self-discrepant false information. Study 2 included team performance feedback (failure or neutral), which was presented just before participants read the narrative containing the false information. The purpose of this procedure was to assess the moderating effect of motivated cognitive processes on the acceptance of self-consistent false information on memory. A loglinear analysis provided confirmation for the expected interaction. The following pattern was obtained for false recall and false self-description (description of team problem solving behavior using the false information trait adjectives): Consistent/failure > Consistent/neutral > Discrepant/neutral = Discrepant/failure. Unexpectedly, this pattern was not obtained on the recognition test data. These findings expand current understanding of processes that contribute to the production of a false memory and extend the traditional, post event false information paradigm. The results are discussed in the context of the false memory debate and future research directions are noted.
- Doctoral Dissertations