Memories people no longer believe in can still affect them in helpful and harmful ways


People can come to “remember” experiences they never had, and these false memories—much like memories for real experiences—can serve a variety of helpful and harmful functions. Sometimes, though, people realize one of their memories is false, and retract their belief in it. These “retracted memories” continue to have many of the same phenomenological characteristics as their believed memories. But can they also continue to serve functions? Across four experiments, we asked subjects to rate the extent to which their retracted memories serve helpful and harmful functions and compared these functions with those served by “genuine” autobiographical memories. People rated their retracted memories as serving both helpful and harmful functions, much like their genuine memories. In addition, we found only weak relationships between people’s belief in their memories and the extent to which those memories served perceived functions. These results suggest memories can serve functions even in the absence of belief and highlight the potential for false memories to affect people’s thinking and behavior even after people have retracted them.

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Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > School of Psychology
Additional Information: © 2022, The Author(s). This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which permits use, sharing, adaptation, distribution and reproduction in any medium or format, as long as you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons licence, and indicate if changes were made. The images or other third party material in this article are included in the article's Creative Commons licence, unless indicated otherwise in a credit line to the material. If material is not included in the article's Creative Commons licence and your intended use is not permitted by statutory regulation or exceeds the permitted use, you will need to obtain permission directly from the copyright holder. To view a copy of this licence, visit
Uncontrolled Keywords: False memory,Memory functions,Autobiographical memory
Publication ISSN: 1532-5946
Last Modified: 17 Jun 2024 08:04
Date Deposited: 06 Jun 2022 11:28
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Related URLs: https://link.sp ... 421-022-01328-9 (Publisher URL)
http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2022-08
Published Online Date: 2022-06-14
Accepted Date: 2022-05-16
Authors: Burnell, Ryan
Nash, Robert A. (ORCID Profile 0000-0002-2284-2001)
Umanath, Sharda
Garry, Maryanne



Version: Accepted Version

Access Restriction: Restricted to Repository staff only


Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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