What's in a name for memory errors? Implications and ethical issues arising from the use of the term "false memory" for errors in memory for details
David Bourget (Western Ontario)
David Chalmers (ANU, NYU)
Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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Ethics and Behavior 14 (3):201 – 233 (2004)
The term "false memories" has been used to refer to suggestibility experiments in which whole events are apparently confabulated and in media accounts of contested memories of childhood abuse. Since 1992 psychologists have increasingly used the term "false memory" when discussing memory errors for details, such as specific words within word lists. Use of the term to refer to errors in details is a shift in language away from other terms used historically (e.g., "memory intrusions"). We empirically examine this shift in language and discuss implications of the new use of the term "false memories." Use of the term presents serious ethical challenges to the data-interpretation process by encouraging over-generalization and misapplication of research findings on word memory to social issues.
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