When Memories No Longer Have Occurred: Advances in the Study of Nonbelieved Memories
Friday, May 23, 2014,
1:00 PM - 2:20 PM
Nonbelieved memories are vivid recollections that are no longer believed to reflect genuine past occurrences. These talks examine them in relation to decision making, memory verification and retraction, and developmental factors. This research supports the notion that autobiographical belief and recollection are distinct. Theoretical and applied implications are discussed.
Nonbelieved memories (NBMs) are vivid recollections of personal events which are no longer believed to reflect genuine past occurrences. Knowledge on NBMs is growing rapidly. NBMs are a naturally occurring phenomenon, which tend to originate in middle to late childhood. Belief in the event depicted by the memory tends to be withdrawn years later, in response to some form of disconfirmatory evidence, the most common being social influence. Even if no longer believed, mental representations for the events continue to be experienced as vivid and like other memories. NBMs share many key phenomenological characteristics with believed memories, most notably a strong sense of recollection.
Recent studies have demonstrated that NBMs can be created in the laboratory. NBMs for objectively true and false events have been induced via suggestions delivered in doctored videos or by implanting false childhood memories. NBMs can develop quickly, are easy to create and occur in response to a variety of targets.
The papers presented report new data and advance the current conceptualization of this phenomenon. A common point is that the belief than an event occurred in the past is distinct from its recollection. In various ways, these talks elucidate the implications of the independence of and interactions between these two concepts.
Dr. Otgaar will present data regarding the creation of NBMs in the laboratory, with an emphasis on studies that have produced NBMs in children. He will describe experiments using an adapted version of the imagination inflation paradigm (Goff and Roediger, 1998). Children and adults performed or imagined actions, some of which were challenged via feedback implying that the action was not performed. Similar rates of NMBs were elicited in children and adults.
Dr. Ost will revisit the phenomenon of ‘memory retraction’ through the lens of NBMs. Retractors represent a 'high-stakes' NBM, where the tension between belief and memory is dependent not only on social influence but also on wider notions of self and identity. He will discuss the fluid relationship between memory and belief in terms of memory and belief revision, and will claim that retractors' accounts vividly illustrate that those processes are not autonomous but bound up in 'higher level' notions of self.
Dr Nash will explore choices of memory verification strategies by considering the roles of reliability (i.e., trustworthiness/accuracy of the information available) and cost (i.e., financial, physical, or time investment) in shaping these preferences. People recalled a vivid and important childhood memory, and imagined if another knowledgeable person said ‘that never happened’. The results indicated that people rely more on cost than on reliability when selecting memory verification strategies.
Prof. Mazzoni will report some recent data on nonbelieved memories and will focus on the theoretical and applied implications of the distinction between recollection and belief in occurrence. After defining the two concepts, she will discuss the logical and empirical dissociation between them, and the potential ways in which belief and memory interact. The implications for research on eyewitness memory will also be examined. Dr. Conway will serve as the discussant.