Item-specific Processing Reduces False Memories


We examined the effect of item-specific and relational encoding instructions on false recognition in two experiments in which the DRM paradigm was used (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). Type of encoding (item-specific or relational) was manipulated between subjects in Experiment 1 and within subjects in Experiment 2. Decision-based explanations (e.g., the distinctiveness heuristic) predict reductions in false recognition in between-subjects designs, but not in within-subjects designs, because they are conceptualized as global shifts in decision criteria. Memory-based explanations predict reductions in false recognition in both designs, resulting from enhanced recollection of item-specific details. False recognition was reduced following item-specific encoding instructions in both experiments, favoring a memory-based explanation. These results suggest that providing unique cues for the retrieval of individual studied items results in enhanced discrimination between those studied items and critical lures. Conversely, enhancing the similarity of studied items results in poor discrimination among items within a particular list theme. These results are discussed in terms of the item-specific/relational framework (Hunt & McDaniel, 1993).

In Psychonomic Bulletin & Review