Imagination Inflation: Imagining a Childhood Event Inflates Confidence that it Occurred
Maryanne Garry, Charles G. Manning, Elizabeth F. Loftus
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review
3 (2), 208-214
Counterfactual imaginings are known to have far reaching implications. In the present experiment, we ask if imagining events from one’s past can affect memory for childhood events. We draw on the social psychology literature showing that imagining a future event increases the subjective likelihood that the event will occur. The concepts of cognitive availability and the source monitoring framework provide reasons to expect that imagination may inflate confidence that a childhood event occurred. However, people routinely produce myriad counterfactual imaginings (i.e., daydreams and fantasies) but usually do not confuse them with past experiences. To determine the effects of imagining a childhood event, we pretested subjects on how confident they were that a number of childhood events had happened, asked them to imagine some of those events, and then gathered new confidence measures. For each of the target items, imagination inflated confidence that the event had occurred in childhood. We discuss implications for situations in which imagination is used as an aid in searching for presumably lost memories.
Am strongly interested in the effect of false memories on the process of expert elicitation. In particular, the stimulus used in the process of extracting the information from experts.
So, in this paper, I am interested in the quality of the inputs into a session. Could one plant false memories of the work or knowledge using such systems. Could it be that using a virtual world to perform the elicitation, if incorrectly configured, will introduce more errors, due to the creation of powerful false memories from the visuals created. Hmmmm.
Interesting to note that the effect is easier with early childhood memories – attributed to vagueness of distant memory. This is also possibly related to the credulity of young children; do you become a little childlike by remembering your childhood? If the effect is consistent, this opens up all sorts of possibilities for creation of beneficial false memories, or to reduce the effects of bad environments (GTA 5 comes to mind) by making sure the rules in such environments make moral sense, removing the effect of such false memories induced by gameplay.
So what is War Thunder doing to me? Do I know have false memories of driving a Tiger I?
The weird part would be the eerie familiarity of driving the Tiger in real life, the eerie familiarity is my false memory of driving in a game, but I experience familiarity in real life. Would I discern the difference, can I, as the familiarity is beyond my control to an extent.
Interestingly enough, this experimental method almost reads like an elicitation session. The experiment manager states to the participant: “What are you likely to do next” while imagining the false event. They are, in concept, creating a false sequence of events or episodes in the memory.
Note, the early estimate of past memory was repeated after the experimenter has faked losing their results – might be dodgy, could people see through this. I wonder if they controlled for insight into the ruse; it is not noted in the description of results.
So, the data showed a consistent increase in confidence of remembering the fake event, especially after imagining the event (personal VR 🙂 ). They controlled for big jumps, conjectured to be actual priming of actual lost memories; this is important in elicitation. They also note that the number of big jumps is small. Also note, that people who did not imagine between tests still went up, but not as much. Another effect in play, maybe regression to the mean, or just a familiarity effect. These effects are important in any elicitation test; just repeating questions may bring about a false memory – this is what cops and psychologists do.
They also bring up the issue of self being in the imagination session. Brings up the idea that an avatar should represent the person who is doing the elicitation, to bring the participant a sense of performing the task in world; might increase the concept of presence.