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The positive ramifications of false memories using a perceptual closure task

Otgaar, H., Howe, M. L., van Beers, J. , van Hoof, R., Bronzwaer, N. & Smeets, T. (2015). The positive ramifications of false memories using a perceptual closure task. Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, 4(1), pp. 43-50. doi: 10.1016/j.jarmac.2014.12.001


The negative features of false memories are frequently at the foreground of false memory research. However, it has become increasingly apparent that false memories also have positive consequences. In two experiments, we examined the positive consequences of false memories. Participants were visually presented with false memory word lists and received a recognition task. In a modified perceptual closure test, participants received degraded visual representations of words (false, true, and unrelated items) that became clearer over time. Participants had to identify them as fast as possible. Identifications based on false memories were significantly faster than those based on true memories and (un)related items. A roughly similar pattern was observed when no recognition task was used and when critical lures were replaced with other items (Experiment 2). Our results indicate that false memories can be beneficial for problem-solving tasks and counter the standard perspective that false memories are inherently negative in nature.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Journal of Applied Research in Memory and Cognition, Volume 4, Issue 1, March 2015, Pages 43–50,
Publisher Keywords: False memory; Adaptive memory; Perceptual closure task
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Psychology
SWORD Depositor:
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