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Arch Gerontol Geriatr. 2012 Mar-Apr;54(2):310-6. doi: 10.1016/j.archger.2011.06.026. Epub 2011 Aug 25.

"It's a hair-dryer…No, it's a drill": misidentification-related false recognitions in younger and older adults.

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Department of Psychology, University of Florence, Via S. Salvi 12, Padiglione 26, 50125 Firenze, Italy.


Memory for visual objects, although typically highly accurate, can be distorted, especially in older adults. Here we asked whether also erroneous identifications of visual objects subsequently corrected and replaced by a correct identification might induce false recognitions, and whether this is more likely to occur in older people. For this aim a new paradigm was developed. In the first phase, participants performed a visual object identification task with degraded pictures of objects and produced correct and false but subsequently corrected identifications. In the second phase, participants performed a surprise recognition task in which also false identifications were presented. False identifications elicited false recognitions, with a stronger and more reliable effect in elderly participants, suggesting that correcting the initial visual error is not sufficient to correct the memory for the experience. Moreover, misidentification-related false recognitions coexisted in memory along with correct recognitions of correct identifications. These findings are discussed in relation with age-related deficits in memory updating and strategic retrieval.

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