The power of the DRM false memory paradigm : forwards and backwards
Gardner, Sandy David Ramsey
Deese (1959) presented word lists composed of semantic associates of a critical non-presented word (CNW), and found that his lists produced CNW intrusions in free recall. Roediger and McDermott (1995) rediscovered and replicated this paradigm, which has been dubbed the DRM paradigm. There is a contradiction between the theoretical basis of the DRM paradigm and the method used in constructing DRM lists. Theory suggests that CNW false memory derives from backward association effects, yet DRM lists have been universally constructed from forward associates. Backward association refers to words that, when presented to participants, elicit the CNW, whereas forward association refers to words that are elicited upon presentation of the CNW. Two studies were designed to clarify whether DRM lists composed of backward associates would produce more CNW intrusions than lists composed of forward associates. Study 1 replicated the typical method of DRM construction, with lists constructed of the strongest associates. In Study 1, 100 participants were exposed to DRM lists, where half of the DRM lists were formed from the 15 strongest backward associates to a CNW, and half of the DRM lists were formed from the 15 strongest forward associates to the CNW. Study 2 was designed so that backward/forward association effects could be studied in relative isolation. In Study 2, 100 participants were exposed to DRM lists where half the DRM lists were formed from the 15 strongest backward associates with no significant forward association strength to the CNW, and half the DRM lists were formed from the 15 strongest forward associates with no significant backward association strength to the CNW. The results supported backward association as more effective in eliciting CNW false recall than forward association. However, there appears to be two processes operating in CNW false recognition, one of which is activated by backward and the other activated by forward association of DRM list words. Therefore, the current theory suggesting that CNW false memory derives from backward association of DRM list words, was supported in the recall stage, while both forward and backward association of DRM list words play a role in the recognition stage.