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Am J Psychol. 2012 Summer;125(2):225-32.

Building false memories without suggestions.

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Victoria University of Wellington, School of Psychology, New Zealand.


People can come to remember doing things they have never done. The question we asked in this study is whether people can systematically come to remember performing actions they never really did, in the absence of any suggestion from the experimenter. People built LEGO vehicles, performing some steps but not others. For half the people, all the pieces needed to assemble each vehicle were laid out in order in front of them while they did the building; for the other half, the pieces were hidden from view. The next day, everyone returned for a surprise recognition test. People falsely and confidently remembered having carried out steps they did not; those who saw all the pieces while they built each vehicle were more likely to correctly remember performing steps they did perform but equally likely to falsely remember performing steps they did not. We explain our results using the source monitoring framework: People used the relationships between actions to internally generate the missing, related actions, later mistaking that information for genuine experience.

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