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Memory. 2015;23(4):545-62. doi: 10.1080/09658211.2014.910530. Epub 2014 Apr 30.

Reasons for withdrawing belief in vivid autobiographical memories.

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  • 1a Department of Psychology , University of Windsor , Windsor , ON , Canada.


Previous studies have shown that many people hold personal memories for events that they no longer believe occurred. This study examines the reasons that people provide for choosing to reduce autobiographical belief in vividly recollected autobiographical memories. A body of non-believed memories provided by 374 individuals was reviewed to develop a qualitatively derived categorisation system. The final scheme consisted of 8 major categories (in descending order of mention): social feedback, event plausibility, alternative attributions, general memory beliefs, internal event features, consistency with external evidence, views of self/others, personal motivation and numerous sub-categories. Independent raters coded the reports and judged the primary reason that each person provided for withdrawing belief. The nature of each category, frequency of category endorsement, category overlap and phenomenological ratings are presented, following which links to related literature and implications are discussed. This study documents that a wide variety of recollective and non-recollective sources of information influence decision-making about the occurrence of autobiographical events.


Autobiographical belief; Autobiographical memory; Decision making; Non-believed memory

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