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Creating False Rewarding Memories Guides Novel Decision Making

  • Wang, Jianqin;
  • Otgaar, Henry; 119064;
  • Howe, Mark L;
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2024
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When memories of past rewarding experiences are distorted, are relevant decision-making preferences impacted? Although recent research has demonstrated the important role of episodic memory in value-based decision making, very few have examined the role of false memory in guiding novel decision making. The current study combined the pictorial Deese/Roediger-McDermott false memory paradigm with a reward learning task, where participants learned that items from some related lists gained reward and items from other lists led to no reward. Later, participants' memories and decision-making preferences were tested. With three experiments conducted in three countries, we successfully created false memories of rewarding experiences in which participants falsely remembered seeing a nonpresented lure picture bring them reward thereby confirming our constructive association hypothesis. Such false memories led participants to prefer the lure pictures and respond faster in a follow-up decision-making task, and the more false memories they formed, the higher preferences for the lure items they displayed (Experiment 2). Finally, results were replicated with or without a memory test before the decision-making task, showing that the impact of false memory on decision making was not cued by a memory test (Experiment 3). Our data suggest that the reconstructive nature of memory enables individuals to create new memory episodes to guide decision making in novel situations. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2024 APA, all rights reserved). / status: published

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