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Self-referential False Associations: A Self-enhanced Constructive Effect for Verbal but Not Pictorial Stimuli

Wang, J., Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L. ORCID: 0000-0002-5747-5571 & Cheng, S. (2021). Self-referential False Associations: A Self-enhanced Constructive Effect for Verbal but Not Pictorial Stimuli. Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 74(9), pp. 1512-1524. doi: 10.1177/17470218211009772


Memory is considered to be a flexible and reconstructive system. However, there is little experimental evidence demonstrating how associations are falsely constructed in memory and even less is known about the role of the self in memory construction. We investigated whether false associations involving non-presented stimuli can be constructed in episodic memory and if the self plays a role in such memory construction. In two experiments, we paired participants’ own names (i.e., self reference) or the name “Adele” (i.e., other-reference) with words and pictures from Deese/Roediger–McDermott (DRM) lists. We found that (1) participants not only falsely remembered the non-presented lure words and pictures as having been presented, but also misremembered that they were paired with their own name or “Adele”, depending on the referenced person of related DRM lists; and (2) there were more critical lure-self associations constructed in the self-reference condition than critical lure-other associations in the other-reference condition for word but not for picture stimuli. These results suggest a self-enhanced constructive effect that might be driven by both relational and item-specific processing. Our results support the spreading activation account for constructive episodic memory.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: Copyright 2021, the authors.
Publisher Keywords: false association, self, item-specific processing, relational processing, spreading activation
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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Text - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives.

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