Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name




First Advisor

Scoboria, Alan


Psychology, Autobiographical memory, Doctored photographs, False beliefs, Falsememory, Memory retrieval




Research to date suggests that non-event-specific photo/narrative pairings produce higher false memory rates than do event-specific photos. The former differ from the latter in that the former provide relevant imagery but omit the specific event to be recalled, thereby promoting novel imaginings and increasing the likelihood of false memories. Two studies sought to determine which type of photograph constitutes a superior retrieval cue. The first study explored the role of how the photograph was framed upon presentation. Thirty-six participants were randomly assigned to conditions as follows: 1) narrative alone, 2) narrative plus photograph introduced as having been taken during the event, and 3) narrative plus photograph introduced as having been taking during the time period that the event took place. Participants were asked to provide as much descriptive detail about their memories for four events allegedly provided by their parents, one of which included a childhood hot-air balloon ride with a parent. They rated their memory (and quality thereof) for each event. Additionally, participants' responses were rated as to the extent to which they constituted visual images or memories. The findings suggest that retrieval cues that favour the generation of a broader memory search model do play an important role in remembering. Both subjective and objective data demonstrated that the wider frame of reference of the "from that time period" condition led to higher false memory formation compared to the narrower frame of reference of the "during the event" condition. Overall, a photograph does not have to depict an event, nor even be viewed as being representative of the event, in order to exert a powerful influence on false memory formation. The second study examined the role of photograph content on false memory formation. Thirty-three participants were randomized to conditions as follows: 1) event-absent photograph, 2) non-event specific photograph, 3) event-specific photograph. The event-absent and the event-specific conditions yielded false memories at an equal frequency. These two groups also formed autobiographical beliefs in the event's occurrence, with those in the doctored, event-specific photograph giving the highest ratings. Unfortunately, familiarity with the experimental design compromised the results of the second study.