Disowned recollections: denying true experiences undermines belief in occurrence but not judgments of remembering

Giuliana Mazzoni*, Andrew Clark, Robert A. Nash

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent research findings have illustrated that false memories induced in the laboratory can be dissociated from the beliefs that the events had in fact occurred. In this study we assessed whether this dissociability is a quality peculiar to false memory, or whether it represents a general characteristic of autobiographical memory. To this end we examined whether people can be induced to stop believing in memories for true experiences. Participants observed and performed simple actions, and were later falsely informed that they had not performed some of them-that false memories for these actions had been implanted through the use of fabricated evidence. Before and after receiving this misinformation, participants rated their belief in and memory of performing those actions, other actions that they had also performed, and actions that they had not performed. Whereas the misinformation substantially undermined participants' beliefs in the specific performed actions about which they had been misinformed, it had little effect on their endorsement of remembering those actions. The misinformation thus boosted the proportion of occasions in which participants rated their memories as stronger than their beliefs, and it weakened the correlation between belief and memory ratings. Thus, this study provides the first experimental demonstration of non-believed memories of true experiences. We discuss our findings with reference to the small literature concerning the use of socially-communicated misinformation to undermine event memories, and with reference to the structure of autobiographical memory.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-146
Number of pages8
JournalActa Psychologica
Issue number1
Early online date15 Dec 2013
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2014

Bibliographical note

NOTICE: this is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Acta Psychologica. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Mazzoni, G, Clark, A & Nash, RA, 'Disowned recollections: denying true experiences undermines belief in occurrence but not judgments of remembering' Acta Psychologica, vol.145 (2014) DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.actpsy.2013.11.007


  • autobiographical belief
  • autobiographical memory
  • non-believed memories


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