Evidence that nonconscious processes are sufficient to produce false memories

Consciousness and Cognition 17 (1):210-218 (2008)
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Are nonconscious processes sufficient to cause false memories of a nonstudied event? To investigate this issue, we controlled and measured conscious processing in the DRM task, in which studying associates causes false memories of nonstudied associates . During the study phase, subjects studied visually masked associates at extremely rapid rates, followed by immediate recall. After this initial phase, nonstudied test words were rapidly presented for perceptual identification, followed by recognition memory judgments. On the perceptual identification task, we found significant priming of nonstudied associates, relative to control words. We also found significant false recognition of these nonstudied associates, even when subjects did not recall this word at study or identify it at test, indicating that nonconscious processes can cause false recognition. These recognition effects were found immediately after studying each list of associates, but not on a delayed test that occurred after the presentation of several intervening lists. Nonconscious processes are sufficient to cause this memory illusion on immediate tests, but may be insufficient for more vivid and lasting false memories



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