Elizabeth J. Marsh - Duke University

Wednesday, April 5, 2017 - 12:00pm
PSH 101

Similarities and Differences from Misremembering Events

Why do people sometimes erroneously think that Toronto is the capital of Canada or that raindrops are teardrop-shaped? Such misconceptions can be traced to many different sources, including but not limited to other people, novels and movies, and fake news stories circulating on social media. Exposure to errors makes them later pop to mind, and this ease of processing is interpreted as evidence of truth. It makes sense that people use such heuristics to judge truth when they do not know enough to evaluate something.  More surprising is the reliance on such heuristics even when relevant knowledge is stored in memory.  One issue is that knowledge slips in and out of reach, in the same way that event memories do. However, compared to personal memories, knowledge is less likely to be associated with a particular time and place and more likely to be have been encountered repeatedly (in slightly different ways). I argue that these properties lead to a cognitively efficient system that accepts close but wrong information, with source memory failures playing less of a role in false beliefs than for false memories of events.

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