Repeatedly Thinking about a Non-event: Source Misattributions among Preschoolers

Consciousness and Cognition 3 (3-4):388-407 (1994)
In this paper we review the factors alleged to be responsible for the creation of inaccurate reports among preschool-aged children, focusing on so-called "source misattribution errors." We present the first round of results from an ongoing program of research that suggests that source misattributions could be a powerful mechanism underlying children′s false beliefs about having experienced fictitious events. Preliminary findings from this program of research indicate that all children of all ages are equally susceptible to making source misattributions. Data from a follow-up wave of data indicate that very young children may be disproportionately vulnerable to these kinds of errors when the procedure is changed slightly to create mental images more easily. This vulnerability leads younger preschoolers, on occasion, to claim that they actually experienced events that they only thought about. These preliminary findings are discussed in the context of the ongoing debate over the veracity and durability of delayed reports of early memories, repressed memories, dissociative states, and the validity risks posed by therapeutic techniques that entail repeated visually guided imagery inductions
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DOI 10.1006/ccog.1994.1022
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