False memory formation in cannabis users: a field study

Lilian Kloft*, Henry Otgaar, Arjan Blokland, Alicja Garbaciak, Lauren A Monds, Johannes G Ramaekers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


RATIONALE: Cannabis use is widespread and has previously been associated with memory impairments. However, the role of cannabis in relation to false memory production, i.e., memories of events that were not experienced, is less well-understood.

OBJECTIVE: The aim of the current field study was to examine the impact of cannabis use on false memory production.

METHODS: The Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm was used to induce false memories. In this paradigm, participants study word lists that are associatively related to a non-presented word, termed the critical lure. In a later memory test, true recognition rates and false alarm rates toward critical lures and unrelated items are assessed. Memory performance was compared between three groups: regular cannabis consumers who were acutely intoxicated (n = 53), regular cannabis consumers who were sober (n = 50), and cannabis-naïve controls (n = 53). The participants were approached in Dutch coffee shops (cannabis outlets) and cafes and asked to participate in our study. After collecting general information on their cannabis use, they were subjected to the DRM procedure.

RESULTS: Although false memory rates for critical lures did not statistically differ between groups, both intoxicated and sober cannabis consumers falsely recognized more unrelated items than control participants. Also, individuals without a history of cannabis use demonstrated higher memory accuracy compared with the intoxicated group.

CONCLUSION: It is concluded that cannabis intoxication and history of cannabis use induce a liberal response criterion for newly presented words for which the level of association with previously learned words is low and uncertainty is high.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3439-3450
Number of pages12
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 28 Jun 2019


  • Cannabis
  • THC
  • Recognition memory
  • False memory
  • DRM paradigm
  • TRUE

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