Masters Thesis

Warning Effects on False Memory: Role of Semantic Interference on Witness Memory

Research suggests that a critical cognitive mechanism involved in false memory is semantic memory. Humans are highly susceptible to false memory error which poses a problem for the reliability of eyewitness testimony. To combat this problem researchers have investigated how metacognitive monitoring and warnings can mitigate false memory formation. Warning individuals about memory errors showed decreases in false recall and recognition; however, the efficacy of warnings is still debated. The current study seeks to determine the extent of the effects of semantic interference on eyewitness memory, and to study which methods of warning are most effective at reducing false memory errors brought about by semantic interference. Participants were given one of three different warning types before beginning the experiment. All participants watched the pilot episode of the television show 24 to simulate a witnessed event. Participants then completed a semantic interference task that was followed by a memory test and confidence measures. Results indicated that those in the semantically related semantic interference task (SIT) condition performed better on the memory test indicating that the task facilitated rehearsal rather than promoting internally generated information. Participants given a warning exhibited poorer performance with decreased memory accuracy and higher false memory errors. This indicates that the warning might have made individuals overconfident in their ability to discern false memories from veridical memories.

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