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EXPLORING A MNEMONIC ILLUSION - WHEN DOES DEGAULLE TURN TO THE LEFT

Publisher
ADRSC-ASSOC DIFFUSION RECHERCHES SCIENCES COGNITIVES
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Keywords
  • Bf Psychology

Abstract

The head of Queen Elizabeth is always turned to the viewer's right on British coins. However, it has been shown that most British people believe incorrectly that it faces left. It has been suggested that this mnemonic illusion arises because people form a memory schema in which they combine information from coins and from postage stamps (on which the head always faces to the left in Britain). A further prediction of the schema hypothesis is that a similar illusion should occur when conflicting information comes not from postage stamps but instead from other, more frequent coins. The coinage of France provides an opportunity to test this prediction. The head of General de Gaulle is turned to the right on the commemorative one-franc coin of 1988, whereas the heads shown on other, more common coins are turned to the left. The results of three experiments supported the predictions of the schema hypothesis. Experiment 1 showed that French people do indeed tend incorrectly to remember the head of General de Gaulle on the one-franc coin as facing to the left. Experiment 2 showed that this result cannot be attributed to a general response bias. Experiment 3 showed that knowledge of other French coins does indeed influence the General de Gaulle response. Overall, the results provide strong evidence of the role of the schema in the induction of systematic misremembering.

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