Document Type



Master of Science



First Adviser

Hupbach, Almut

Other advisers/committee members

Arrington, Catherine M.; O'Seaghdha, Padraig G.


Human memory is not a precise picture of the past and thus is prone to error. It is susceptible to the presentation of distorting information (e.g. Loftus, 1977; Loftus, Miller, & Burns, 1978), and people sometimes struggle to distinguish between highly similar alternatives (Guerin et al., 2012). However, certain situations seem to foster excellent memory even when the distinctions to be made are quite difficult (Brady et al., 2008). I conducted three experiments in an attempt to better understand how avoidance of common memory errors influences long-term memory. All three experiments asked participants to study individual objects during encoding. Immediately after, they performed a visual recognition test, with some conditions fostering false recognition (Guerin et al., 2012). Forty-eight hours later, a second recognition test was administered to test the long-term effects of initial correct and false recognitions. Experiment 1 asked whether rejecting a non-target foil of high similarity to a previously encountered target at Test 1 might lead to richer encoding of that foil, leading to better recognition of that foil at Test 2. Experiment 2 asked whether rejecting the foil initially might cause subjects to mistake the representation of the foil for the target representation. I found evidence against these hypotheses. Correct rejection of high-similarity foils at Test 1 led to subsequent failure to recognize those foils at Test 2 (Experiment 1). Moreover, even when the targets were again presented at Test 2 (Experiment 2), initial correct rejections most often led to subsequent failure to recognize targets. Experiment 3 asked whether correct rejections at Test 2 were made on the basis of impaired recognition for conceptual or perceptual details. The results suggest that both conceptual and perceptual details play a role in Test 2 rejections. These findings are discussed with respect to misleading post-event information, reconsolidation, intentional forgetting, and the role of sleep in memory consolidation. Overall, the results of these studies produce a coherent pattern. Rejections on an initial test often lead to subsequent memory failure, while initial false recognitions of a target-related foil often lead to later false recognition of the same foil, but do not necessarily interfere with access to the target representation.

Included in

Psychology Commons