Undermining belief in false memories leads to less efficient problem-solving behaviour

Jianqin Wang*, Henry Otgaar, Mark L Howe, Tom Smeets, Harald Merckelbach, Zacharia Nahouli

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

414 Downloads (Pure)


Memories of events for which the belief in the occurrence of those events is undermined, but recollection is retained, are called nonbelieved memories (NBMs). The present experiments examined the effects of NBMs on subsequent problem-solving behaviour. In Experiment 1, we challenged participants' beliefs in their memories and examined whether NBMs affected subsequent solution rates on insight-based problems. True and false memories were elicited using the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm. Then participants' belief in true and false memories was challenged by telling them the item had not been presented. We found that when the challenge led to undermining belief in false memories, fewer problems were solved than when belief was not challenged. In Experiment 2, a similar procedure was used except that some participants solved the problems one week rather than immediately after the feedback. Again, our results showed that undermining belief in false memories resulted in lower problem solution rates. These findings suggest that for false memories, belief is an important agent in whether memories serve as effective primes for immediate and delayed problem-solving.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)910-921
Number of pages12
Issue number7
Early online date2 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Cite this