ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2021, Vol. 29 ›› Issue (1): 79-92.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2021.00079

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The cognitive and neural mechanisms underlying false memory: An information processing perspective

GUO Ying1, GONG Xianmin2, WANG Dahua1()   

  1. 1Institute of Developmental Psychology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2Stanley Ho Big Data Decision Analytics Research Centre & Department of Psychology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong 999077, China
  • Received:2020-05-14 Online:2021-01-15 Published:2020-11-23
  • Contact: WANG Dahua


By reviewing both behavioral and neuroimaging research, the present article illustrates how processing of information from different sources (i.e., the target event/stimulus, internal cognitive schemas, and external interference) and at different stages (i.e., the encoding, storage, re-activation/reconsolidation and retrieval stages) contributes to false memory. We conclude that false memory may arise from three mechanisms: (1) The lack of distinctive item-specific memory representations that makes it difficult to distinguish targets from related lures; (2) The engagement of cognitive schemas strengthens the memory representations of non-target information (including related lures) in the schemas; and (3) Re-activated memory representations of targets are distorted and modified by external interference. Future research may use updated approaches, e.g., multivariate pattern analysis (MVPA), to further investigate the brain regions responsible for representing item-specific details, the way different types of schema (e.g., event-based script) promote the representations of related lures, and the way re-activation of schema during memory retrieval influences false memory.

Key words: false memory, cognitive schema, neural mechanisms, information processing

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