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Neuropsychol Dev Cogn B Aging Neuropsychol Cogn. 2014;21(5):560-76. doi: 10.1080/13825585.2013.839026. Epub 2013 Oct 15.

False action memories in older adults: relationship with executive functions?

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a Department of Psychology , University of Kassel , Kassel , Germany.


Merely observing another person performing an action can make young people later misremember having performed this action themselves (the observation-inflation effect). We examined this type of memory error in healthy older adults. Overall, both young and older adult groups showed robust observation inflation. Although the number of people committing observation-inflation errors did not differ between age groups, those older adults who were prone to this illusion showed a greater observation-inflation effect compared to the corresponding young. At the same time, observation also had beneficial effects on subsequent action memory, especially in older adults. Surprisingly, executive functioning was not correlated with the degree to which older adults made observation-inflation errors, but it was related to the degree to which older adults benefited from observation. We consider accounts of observation inflation based on source monitoring, familiarity misattribution, and motor simulation.


Executive functions; False memory; Imagination inflation; Reality monitoring; Source memory

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