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J Exp Psychol Learn Mem Cogn. 2011 Jan;37(1):270-6. doi: 10.1037/a0021323.

Remembering makes evidence compelling: retrieval from memory can give rise to the illusion of truth.

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Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, 200 University Avenue West, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.


The illusion of truth is traditionally described as the increase in perceived validity of statements when they are repeated (Hasher, Goldstein, & Toppino, 1977). However, subsequent work has demonstrated that the effect can arise due to the increased familiarity or fluency afforded by repetition and not necessarily to repetition per se. We examine the case of information retrieved from memory. Recently experienced information is expected to be subsequently reexperienced as more fluent and familiar than novel information (Jacoby, 1983; Jacoby & Dallas, 1981). Therefore, the possibility exists that information retrieved from memory, because it is subjectively re-experienced at retrieval, would be more fluent or familiar than when it was first learned and would thus lead to an increase in perceived validity. Using a method to indirectly poll the perceived truth of factual statements, our experiment demonstrated that information retrieved from memory does indeed give rise to an illusion of truth. The effect was larger than when statements were explicitly repeated twice and was of comparable size to when statements were repeated 4 times. We conclude that memory retrieval is a powerful method for increasing the perceived validity of statements (and subsequent illusion of truth) and that the illusion of truth is a robust effect that can be observed even without directly polling the factual statements in question.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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