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Simulation, false memories, and the planning of future events

Dewhurst, Stephen A.; Anderson, Rachel J.; Grace, Lydia; Howe, David


Lydia Grace

David Howe


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.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 24, 2018
Online Publication Date Apr 26, 2018
Publication Date 2019-01
Deposit Date Jan 26, 2018
Publicly Available Date May 10, 2018
Journal Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning Memory and Cognition
Print ISSN 0278-7393
Publisher American Psychological Association
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 45
Issue 1
Pages 26-36
Keywords False memory; Future thinking; Simulation; Planning
Public URL
Publisher URL
Contract Date May 10, 2018


Article (332 Kb)

Copyright Statement
©American Psychological Association, 2018. This paper is not the copy of record and may not exactly replicate the authoritative document published in the APA journal. Please do not copy or cite without author's permission. The final article is available, upon publication, at the DOI link in this record.

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