fMRI Evidence for the Role of Recollection in Suppressing Misattribution Errors: The Illusory Truth Effect

Department of Psychology, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138, USA.
Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience (Impact Factor: 4.09). 05/2005; 17(5):800-10. DOI: 10.1162/0898929053747595
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Misattribution refers to the act of attributing a memory or idea to an incorrect source, such as successfully remembering a bit of information but linking it to an inappropriate person or time [Jacoby, L. L., Kelley, C., Brown, J., & Jasechko, J. (1989). Becoming famous overnight: Limits on the ability to avoid unconscious influences of the past. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 56, 326-338; Schacter, D. L. (1999). The seven sins of memory: Insights from psychology and cognitive neuroscience. American Psychologist, 54, 182-203; Schacter, D. L. (2001). The seven sins of memory: How the mind forgets and remembers. Boston: Houghton Mifflin]. Cognitive studies have suggested that misattribution errors may occur in the absence of recollection for the details of an initial encounter with a stimulus, but little is known about the neural basis of this memory phenomenon. Here we used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to examine the hypothesized role of recollection in counteracting the illusory truth effect, a misattribution error whereby perceivers systematically overrate the truth of previously presented information. Imaging was conducted during the encoding and subsequent judgment of unfamiliar statements that were presented as true or false. Event-related fMRI analyses were conditionalized as a function of subsequent performance. Results demonstrated that encoding activation in regions previously associated with successful recollection--including the hippocampus and the ventrolateral prefrontal cortex (PFC)--correlated with the successful avoidance of misattribution errors, providing initial neuroimaging support for earlier cognitive accounts of misattribution.

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    • "First, preference has not been seen when the affective nature of the question is reversed (i.e., which stimulus is disliked or not preferred; Zajonc, 1968; Zajonc et al., 1972, 1974a,b; Seamon et al., 1998). Second, as participants become aware of their misattributions, they correct for them (Mitchell et al., 2005), but the mere exposure effect is not diminished when the awareness of fluency increases and participants have the opportunity to correct for their misattribution of fluency to liking (e.g., Krugman and Hartley, 1960; Moreland and Zajonc, 1976; Seamon et al., 1984; Bornstein et al., 1987; Study 2). The finding that anxiety, which correlated with negative and positive experiences of emotion, was related to the mere exposure effect, but that fluency appeared unrelated must be considered in the context of the specific experimental paradigm employed in the present study. "
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    ABSTRACT: The mere exposure effect refers to an affective preference elicited by exposure to previously unfamiliar items. Although it is a well-established finding, its mechanism remains uncertain, with some positing that it reflects affective processes and others positing that it reflects perceptual or motor fluency with repeated items. Here we examined whether individual differences in trait and state anxiety, which have been associated with the experience of emotion, influence the mere exposure effect. Participants’ trait (Study 1) and state (Study 2) anxiety were characterized with the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory. Greater trait and state anxiety correlated with greater negative affect and lesser positive affect. In both experiments, greater anxiety was associated with a reduced mere exposure effect. Measures of fluency (response times at study and test) were unrelated to the mere exposure effect. These findings support the role of affective processes in the mere exposure effect, and offer a new insight into the nature of anxiety such that anxiety is associated with a reduced experience of positive affect typically associated with familiarity.
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    • "The pure experience of processing fluency under exclusion of direct remembering or reasoning that we have depicted above therefore clearly underestimates the usefulness of the fluency cue. In the past, the usage of fluency as a cue has often been treated as a judgmental bias or an error, because in most experimental setups, previous encounters and factual truth are artificially orthogonalized (e.g., Mitchell et al. 2005). Our analysis suggests (as illustrated in Fig. 1) that as long as more than half of the statements one has been exposed to are true, it is epistemically justified to use processing fluency of a statement, derived from prior exposure (see Mandler 1980) and other possible sources, as a cue for the truth of the statement. "
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    ABSTRACT: This article combines findings from cognitive psychology on the role of processing fluency in truth judgments with epistemological theory on justification of belief. We first review evidence that repeated exposure to a statement increases the subjective ease with which that statement is processed. This increased processing fluency, in turn, increases the probability that the statement is judged to be true. The basic question discussed here is whether the use of processing fluency as a cue to truth is epistemically justified. In the present analysis, based on Bayes' Theorem, we adopt the reliable-process account of justification presented by Goldman (1986) and show that fluency is a reliable cue to truth, under the assumption that the majority of statements one has been exposed to are true. In the final section, we broaden the scope of this analysis and discuss how processing fluency as a potentially universal cue to judged truth may contribute to cultural differences in commonsense beliefs.
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    • "Furthermore, manipulation of encoding variables which increased source memory in the older population also led to a reduced truth effect (Law et al., 1998). As well, it has been shown that the brain regions which show additional activation on fMRI during false judgements are the same areas that are activated during successful source memory recognition (Mitchell et al., 2005). It should be pointed out that the tagging process need not be explicit, as Lieberman, Ochsner, Gilbert, and Schacter (2001) have demonstrated: Participants with amnesia, like control participants, changed their subjective ratings of pictorial preferences based on a cognitive dissonance manipulation that they could not remember. "
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