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The positive consequences of false memories

Howe, M. L., Garner, S. R. and Patel, M. (2013). The positive consequences of false memories. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 31(5), pp. 652-665. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2078


Previous research is replete with examples of the negative consequences of false memories. In the current research, we provide a different perspective on false memories and their development and demonstrate that false memories can have positive consequences. Specifically, we examined the role false memories play in subsequent problem-solving tasks. Children and adults studied and recalled neutral or survival-relevant lists of associated words. They then solved age-normed compound remote associates, some of whose solutions had been primed by false memories created when studying the previous lists. The results showed that regardless of age: (a) survival-related words were not only better recollected but were also more susceptible than neutral words to false memory illusions; and (b) survival-related false memories were better than neutral false memories as primes for problem-solving. These findings are discussed in the context of recent speculation concerning the positive consequences of false memories, and the adaptive nature of reconstructive memory.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: This is the accepted version of the following article: Howe, M. L., Garner, S. R. and Patel, M. (2013), Positive Consequences of False Memories. Behav. Sci. Law, 31: 652–665, which has been published in final form at
Publisher Keywords: Memory development, False memories, Adaptive memory, Priming problem solutions
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Arts & Social Sciences > Psychology
Date available in CRO: 12 Nov 2014 16:30
Date deposited: 25 July 2017
Date of first online publication: 2013
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