Three experiments investigated the relationship between future thinking and false memories. In Experiment 1, participants remembered familiar events (e.g., a holiday) from their past, imagined planning the same events in the future, or took part in a control condition in which they visualized typical events. They then rated a series of schema-related and schema-unrelated nouns for how likely they were to be encountered within those events. In a surprise recognition test, participants in the future condition falsely recognized more schema-related items than participants in the past and control conditions. No reliable effects of rating condition were observed in correct recognition. Experiment 2 found the same pattern when participants imagined unfamiliar events (e.g., taking part in a bank robbery) from past or future perspectives. Participants in Experiment 3 remembered a past or imagined a future holiday and were then instructed to generate items that someone might take on a holiday. Participants in the future condition generated more nonstudied items and fewer studied items relative to participants in the past condition. The findings of Experiments 1 and 2 indicate that simulating future events enhances the activation of related items that gives rise to false memories. The findings of Experiment 3 suggest that these activation processes play an adaptive role in guiding the planning of future events.
Dewhurst, S. A., Anderson, R. J., Grace, L., & Howe, D. (2019). Simulation, false memories, and the planning of future events. Journal of experimental psychology. Learning, memory, and cognition, 45(1), 26-36. https://doi.org/10.1037/xlm0000575