Eliciting and comparing false and recovered memories: An experimental approach Academic Article uri icon


  • We describe an experimental paradigm designed to elicit both recovered and false memories in the laboratory. All participants saw, on a video screen, three critical categorized lists of words mixed in randomly with eighteen filler categorized lists. Those in the blocking condition then had several paper-and-pencil tasks that involved only the 18 non-critical filler lists. An uncued recall test was then given, asking participants to recall all the lists they originally saw on the video screen. Finally, there was a cued recall test that provided category cues for the three critical lists. Substantial memory blocking of critical lists on the uncued test and recovery on the cued recall test was observed in all three experiments. In Experiments 2 and 3, many false and recovered memories were elicited on the cued recall test by including cues for the three critical (forgotten) lists, plus cues for three lists that had never been presented. False memories were distinguishable from truly recovered memories in cued recall by 'know' versus 'remember' judgements, and by confidence ratings; accurately recovered memories were associated with higher confidence. False and recovered memories could not be discriminated based on recall latency. The results repeatedly show powerful effects of memory blocking and recovery. We also show that recovered and false memories can be elicited within a single experimental procedure, and there may be unique characteristics of each. Although we urge caution in generalizing to false and recovered memories of trauma, we suggest that variations of our comparative memory paradigm may be useful for learning about such phenomena. Copyright 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Smith, S. M., Gleaves, D. H., Pierce, B. H., Williams, T. L., Gilliland, T. R., & Gerkens, D. R.

citation count

  • 13

complete list of authors

  • Smith, SM||Gleaves, DH||Pierce, BH||Williams, TL||Gilliland, TR||Gerkens, DR

publication date

  • April 2003