Trying to recollect past events: Confidence, beliefs, and memories

T. Smeets, H. Merckelbach, R. Horselenberg, M. Jelicic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


Numerous studies claim to have shown that false memories can be easily created in the laboratory. However, a critical analysis of the methods employed in these studies indicates that many of them do not address memory in the strict sense of the word. Instead, some of these studies assess the confidence that participants have in a fictitious (childhood) event, while others pertain to false beliefs about childhood events. While it is difficult to draw precise demarcation lines, we argue that inflated confidence, false beliefs, and false memories are different phenomena. Keeping the origins of these studies in mind (i.e., people who file lawsuits on the basis of their recovered memories), we propose that a fruitful, but stringent definition of false memories would incorporate their consequences. Thus, we argue that this research domain would profit from studies looking explicitly at whether experimental manipulations intended to implant false memories have overt behavioral consequences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)917-934
JournalClinical Psychology Review
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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