Are false memories universal? Individual differences in susceptibility to false memories in older adults

Restricted (Penn State Only)
Webb, Christina Eileen
Graduate Program:
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 03, 2018
Committee Members:
  • Nancy Anne Coulter Dennis, Dissertation Advisor
  • Nancy Anne Coulter Dennis, Committee Chair
  • Michele Theresa Diaz, Committee Member
  • Koraly Elisa Perez-Edgar, Committee Member
  • Lesley Anne Ross, Outside Member
  • aging
  • cognition
  • memory
  • false memory
Previous research has consistently shown that the rate of false memories, or memories for erroneous information, increases from younger to older age. It is still not clear, however, why some older adults are more susceptible to making false memories than others. It is also not clear whether susceptibility to false memories in aging varies based on the source of the false memory. Therefore, the aims of the dissertation were to 1) examine individual differences in older adults’ susceptibility to false memories elicited by three different false memory paradigms, and 2) identify cognitive factors that predict variability in older adults’ false memories. A within-subjects design was used to measure older adults’ propensity to make false memories across three separate experiments designed to measure semantic, associative, and perceptual false memories. Domain specific cognitive factors that have been posited to underlie each type of false memory, as well as a more general factor of executive function, were also measured. Results showed that false memory susceptibility varied within individuals based on the source of the false memory, and that false memory rates across the three tasks were differentially associated with other cognitive measures. Classifying these relationships between various types of false memories and general cognition helps to inform current theories of false memory and cognitive aging.