Remembering words not presented in sentences: How study context changes patterns of false memories

Laura E. Matzen, Aaron S. Benjamin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


People falsely endorse semantic associates and morpheme rearrangements of studied words at high rates in recognition testing. The coexistence of these results is paradoxical: Models of reading that presume automatic extraction of meaning cannot account for elevated false memory for foils that are related to studied stimuli only by their visual form; models without such a process cannot account for false memory for semantic foils. Here we show how sentence and list study contexts encourage different encoding modes and consequently lead to different patterns of memory errors. Participants studied compound words, such as tailspin and floodgate, as single words or embedded in sentences. We show that sentence contexts led subjects to be better able to discriminate conjunction lures (e.g., tailgate) from old words than did list contexts. Conversely, list contexts led to superior discrimination of semantic lures (e.g., nosedive) from old words than did sentence contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-64
Number of pages13
JournalMemory and Cognition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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