Increases of correct memories and spontaneous false memories due to eye movements when memories are retrieved after a time delay

  • Sanne T.l. Houben (Creator)
  • Henry Otgaar (Creator)
  • Jeffrey Roelofs (Creator)
  • Tom Smeets (Creator)
  • Harald Merckelbach (Creator)
  • Sanne Houben (Contributor)



Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is an effective treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. However, literature on possible adverse memory effects of EMDR is scarce. Using the Deese/Roediger- McDermott (DRM) false memory paradigm, we examined the susceptibility to spontaneous false memories after performing eye movements, as used in EMDR. In Experiment 1, 72 undergraduates received word lists containing negative and neutral associated words and immediately after this they were given a free recall and recognition test. In Experiment 2, 68 undergraduates underwent the free recall and recognition test 48 h later. During the free recall phase in both experiments, participants either performed eye movements or not (control condition). In Experiment 1, the two conditions did not differ statistically with regard to correct and false recall/ recognition. In Experiment 2, correct memory rates were higher in the eye movement than in the control condition and this was accompanied by an increase in spontaneous false memories on both free recall and recognition. Although our experimental approach is far removed from clinical practice, our findings suggest that eye movements as used in EMDR might amplify both correct and false memory rates.
Date made available10 Mar 2020

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