False Memories

A false memory is one in which a person believes something happened when in fact it did not. For example, you may falsely remember that you had lasagne with your dinner yesterday when in fact it was spaghetti bolognese. False memories are mostly harmless but in some cases they can have considerable ramifications, for example, in the legal arena.

Recent research has shown that under specific conditions, adults and older children can have more false memories than younger primary school children. This has been shown in studies that used the DRM-Paradigm below.

The DRM paradigm

In the DRM paradigm, adults and children study lists of words that are associated with a nonpresented word, namely the "critical lure". For example, hot, snow, warm, winter, ice, and so forth all are associated with the critical lure cold. Despite never hearing the word cold, some people falsely recollect cold along with correctly remembering list items that were presented. Interestingly, adults and older children are more likely to falsely remember "cold" than younger primary school children.

Our research uses different formats of the DRM-paradigm and focuses on two questions:


Wimmer, M. C., & Howe, M. L. (2010). Are children’s memory illusions created differently than adults’? Evidence from levels-of-processing and divided attention paradigms. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 107, 31-49.

Wimmer, M. C., & Howe, M. L. (2009). The development of automatic associative processes and children’s false memories. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 104, 447-465.

Howe, M. L., Wimmer, M. C., Gagnon, N., & Plumpton, S. (2009). An associative-activation theory of children’s and adults’ memory illusions. Journal of Memory and Language, 60, 229-251.