The effect of future thinking and emotion on false memory formation

Vella, Georgia

September 2021

Thesis or dissertation

© 2021 Georgia Vella. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Research has found that future thinking increases the number of false memories formed when compared to thinking about the past (Dewhurst et al., 2016; Dewhurst et al., 2019). Previous research, however, has not controlled for emotional valence. Therefore, the present research aimed to investigate the effect of future thinking on false memories whilst controlling for the valence of the stimuli in order to use a more ecologically valid procedure than those previously used. In Experiment 1, participants imagined past, future, or typical scenarios that were positive, negative, and neutral. Participants then rated object nouns for how likely they were to encounter those objects in the events they had imagined. Then, participants completed a recognition test for those items as well as items that were not presented, but were related to the scenarios (critical lures). Experiment 2 followed the same method, but action phrases were used as stimuli instead of object nouns. Overall, results showed no difference in the incidence of false memories after thinking about past, future, or typical events. However, results showed that there was an overall reduction in false memories after thinking about neutral events compared to positive or negative events. The null effects of future thinking on false memory may have been a result of conducting the experiments online, so future research should conduct these experiments in the laboratory to rule out this potential methodological problem. Potential explanations for the findings are discussed with relevance to adaptive theories of false memories and suggestions for future research are given.

Department of Psychology, The University of Hull
Dewhurst, Stephen A.; Anderson, Rachel J.
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