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Imagination or Repetition? The Possible Role of the Referential Validity Effect in Autobiographical Memory Distortion

Halpern, David Vincent (2003) Imagination or Repetition? The Possible Role of the Referential Validity Effect in Autobiographical Memory Distortion. Master's Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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Recently a number of researchers have found that asking participants to imagine engaging in unlikely childhood events can increase their estimation that those events actually took place. This "imagination inflation" effect has been assumed to result from the process of imagination. However, this conclusion may be premature since prior studies investigating imagination have been confounded with repetition; i.e., participants receive more exposure to the "target" items (i.e., those items which are imagined) than to the "non-target" items (i.e., those items which are not imagined). Research on the referential validity effect reveals that estimations of the truth of propositions is increased for repeated items relative to items that are presented for the first time. Based on unpublished work investigating the potency of imagination inflation, and on the inherent similarities between the multiple exposures to target items in the imagination inflation paradigm and repetition utilized in studies investigating the validity effect, the current study tested the effects of imagining an item against those of simply being exposed to multiple repetitions of it. Results provided initial support for the hypothesis that repetition is the driving force between differences between targets and non-targets, and that they do not depend on the act of extensive imagination. However, a limitation in the design of this study (whereby control subjects engaged in some imagination, albeit far less that imagination subjects) suggests that the present findings must be viewed with caution. The implications of this limitation are discussed, and potential ways of honing the experimental design are offered.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Halpern, David Vincentdvh@pitt.eduDVH
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairSchooler, Jonathanschooler@pitt.eduSCHOOLER
Committee MemberReichle, Erikreichle@pitt.eduREICHLE
Committee MemberLevine, Johnjml@pitt.eduJML
Date: 25 September 2003
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 13 December 2002
Approval Date: 25 September 2003
Submission Date: 23 April 2003
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Psychology
Degree: MS - Master of Science
Thesis Type: Master's Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: LEI; Life Events Inventory
Other ID:, etd-04232003-135051
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:41
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:42


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