Getting the Gist: The Critical Role of Semantic Relations in DRM False Memories
Theories of false memories, particularly in the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm, focus on word association strength and gist. Backward associative strength (BAS) is a strong predictor of false recall. However, other than being defined as a measure of association between studied list words and falsely recalled non-presented critical words, there is little understanding of this variable. We first use a knowledge type taxonomy to classify the semantic relations in DRM stimuli. These knowledge types predict false recall probability, as well as BAS itself, with the most important being situation features, synonyms, and taxonomic relations. In subsequent studies, we demonstrate that lists comprised solely of situation features elicit a strong gist and produce false memories, particularly when source monitoring is made more difficult. Our results identify the semantic factors that underlie BAS and demonstrate how considering semantic relations leads to a better understanding of gist formation.