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Can false memories prime problem solutions?

Howe, Mark L.; Garner, Sarah R.; Dewhurst, Stephen A.; Ball, Linden J.


Mark L. Howe

Sarah R. Garner

Linden J. Ball


Previous research has suggested that false memories can prime performance on related implicit and explicit memory tasks. The present research examined whether false memories can also be used to prime higher order cognitive processes, namely, insight-based problem solving. Participants were asked to solve a number of compound remote associate task (CRAT) problems, half of which had been primed by the presentation of Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) lists whose critical lure was also the solution to the problem. The results showed that when the critical lure: (a) was falsely recalled, CRAT problems were solved more often and significantly faster than problems that were not primed by a DRM list and (b) was not falsely recalled, CRAT problem solution rates and times were no different than when there was no DRM priming. A second experiment demonstrated that these outcomes were not a simple artifact of the inclusion of a recall test prior to the problem solving task. The implications of these results are discussed with regard to the previous literature on priming and the adaptive function of false memories.


Howe, M. L., Garner, S. R., Dewhurst, S. A., & Ball, L. J. (2010). Can false memories prime problem solutions?. Cognition, 117(2), 176-181.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Aug 7, 2010
Online Publication Date Sep 1, 2010
Publication Date 2010-11
Print ISSN 0010-0277
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 117
Issue 2
Pages 176-181
Keywords False memory; Problem solving; Adaptive memory
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