The impact of false denials on forgetting and false memory

Henry Otgaar*, Mark L. Howe, Ivan Mangiulli, Charlotte Bücken

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


People sometimes falsely deny having experienced an event. In the current experiments, we examined the effect of false denials on forgetting and false memory formation. In Experiment 1, participants were presented with emotionally-negative and neutral associatively related word lists known to engender false memories. After encoding, half of the participants had to falsely deny having seen the words while the other half had to tell the truth. During a final memory test (recall or source monitoring task), participants who falsely denied forgot that they discussed certain words with an experimenter. Furthermore, the act of falsely denying reduced the formation of false memories. These results were partially replicated in Experiment 2 where participants also had to re-learn several words and received a second memory task. This latter design feature diminished the effect of false denials on false memory creation. Our experiments suggest that false denials not only have negative consequences (forgetting), but can have positive ones too (reduction in false memories).

Original languageEnglish
Article number104322
Number of pages9
Early online date26 May 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • False denial
  • False memory
  • Denial-induced forgetting
  • Associative activation
  • Inhibition
  • ITEM

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