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Emotional content of true and false memories.

Authors
  • Laney, Cara
  • Loftus, Elizabeth F
Type
Published Article
Journal
Memory (Hove, England)
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2008
Volume
16
Issue
5
Pages
500–516
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1080/09658210802065939
PMID: 18569679
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Many people believe that emotional memories (including those that arise in therapy) are particularly likely to represent true events because of their emotional content. But is emotional content a reliable indicator of memory accuracy? The current research assessed the emotional content of participants' pre-existing (true) and manipulated (false) memories for childhood events. False memories for one of three emotional childhood events were planted using a suggestive manipulation and then compared, along several subjective dimensions, with other participants' true memories. On most emotional dimensions (e.g., how emotional was this event for you?), true and false memories were indistinguishable. On a few measures (e.g., intensity of feelings at the time of the event), true memories were more emotional than false memories in the aggregate, yet true and false memories were equally likely to be rated as uniformly emotional. These results suggest that even substantial emotional content may not reliably indicate memory accuracy.

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