ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2018, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (12): 1369-1380.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2018.01369

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Imagination inflation effect in older adults

ZHOU Chu1(),SU Man1,ZHOU Chong1,YANG Yan1,XI Yaqi1,DONG Qun2   

  1. 1 Department of Psychology, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China
    2 Senior Citizen School, Fudan University, Shanghai 200433, China
  • Received:2017-10-05 Published:2018-12-25 Online:2018-10-30


Most of the studies adopting the Deese/Roediger-McDermott paradigm or misinformation effect paradigm demonstrate that older adults are more susceptible to false memories than young ones. However, whether similar aging effect occurs under the imagination inflation paradigm remains unclear. In this study, two experiments were conducted to explore the imagination inflation effect and its potential underlying mechanism in older adults.

In Experiment 1, the classic imagination inflation paradigm was used to investigate whether older adults can induce larger imagination inflation effect than young ones. A 2 × 2 × 2 (age: older adults, young adults × time: pretest, posttest × imagination condition: imagined events, not-imagined events) mixed factorial design was adopted. Owing to their deficit in episodic memory and future simulation, older adults may show less internal (episodic) details than young ones during imagination. We hypothesized that older and young adults show similar false memory effects under the imagination inflation paradigm. In Experiment 2, we used episodic specificity induction technology to further investigate the mechanism of the imagination inflation effect in older adults. Through episodic specificity induction, the number of internal (episodic) details can increase selectively during the imagination of the events, which may facilitate imagination. Therefore, episodic specificity induction brings about larger imagination inflation false memories than control induction. A 2 × 2 × 2 (induction: episodic specificity induction, control induction × time: pretest, posttest × imagination condition: imagined, not-imagined events) mixed design was used in Experiment 2. The procedure of Experiment 2 was similar to that of Experiment 1, except that participants received episodic specificity or control induction before the posttest phase.

Results showed that (1) older and young adults experienced significant false memory effect under the imagination inflation paradigm, but older adults did not show more false memories than young adults. (2) Participants who received episodic specificity induction showed more false memories than those who received control induction.

Taken together, the results demonstrate that imagination of events plays an important role in producing the imagination inflation effect. The reason that older adults do not show significant higher imagination inflation effect than young ones may be closely related to the lack of internal details during imagination. The imagination inflation effect in older adults may be based on the age-related deficits in episodic memory and future thinking. The results are discussed in terms of activation/monitoring theory and constructive episodic simulation hypothesis.

Key words: false memory, imagination inflation paradigm, aging effect, episodic specificity induction

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