Creating False Memories: Remembering Words Not Presented in Lists

Henry L. Roediger, Kathleen B. McDermott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2817 Scopus citations


Two experiments (modeled after J. Deese's 1959 study) revealed remarkable levels of false recall and false recognition in a list learning paradigm. In Experiment 1, subjects studied lists of 12 words (e.g., bed, rest, awake ); each list was composed of associates of 1 nonpresented word (e.g., sleep). On immediate free recall tests, the nonpresented associates were recalled 40% of the time and were later recognized with high confidence. In Experiment 2, a false recall rate of 55% was obtained with an expanded set of lists, and on a later recognition test, subjects produced false alarms to these items at a rate comparable to the hit rate. The act of recall enhanced later remembering of both studied and nonstudied material. The results reveal a powerful illusion of memory: People remember events that never happened.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)803-814
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1995


Dive into the research topics of 'Creating False Memories: Remembering Words Not Presented in Lists'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this