Date of Award


Publication Type

Master Thesis

Degree Name





Social sciences, Psychology


Alan Scoboria




Recent research has suggested that false narratives produce higher false memory rates than false photographs. This has been explained in terms of photographs being higher in constraint, defined as the limitation of freedom to develop familiar details about a memory, because they are a snapshot of a moment and may discourage imagination when attempting to remember the event. This study extends previous research by exploring the effects of constraining and self-relevant details in false photographs upon false memory formation. Seventy-six participants were randomized to conditions where either a non-self relevant or self-relevant detail was paired with either a non-constraining or constraining detail. Over the course of three sessions during which they were encouraged to provide as much descriptive detail about their memories, participants viewed 4 photographs allegedly provided by their parents, one of which depicted an alleged childhood balloon ride with a parent. They rated how much they remembered each photograph, as well as the quality of their memories. Additionally, participants' transcripts from the first and third sessions were rated by two independent judges as to the extent to which they constituted visual images or memories. Consistent with predictions, individuals who received self-relevant information without associated constraining information in photographs provided the highest memory ratings, and endorsed certain memory characteristics (e.g. visual images, event coherence, emotional content) for the false event. However, predicted differences in judge's ratings of events as memories were not observed. Groups showed statistically equal false memory formation rates at both time points, achieving an overall images rate of 20.9% and memory rate of 12.4%. This research has implications in both the therapeutic and legal arenas.