Monitoring sources of event memories: A cross-linguistic investigation

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When monitoring the origins of their memories, people tend to mistakenly attribute memories generated from internal processes (e.g., imagination, visualization) to perception. Here, we ask whether speaking a language that obligatorily encodes the source of information might help prevent such errors. We compare speakers of English to speakers of Turkish, a language that obligatorily encodes information source (direct/perceptual vs. indirect/hearsay or inference) for past events. In our experiments, participants reported having seen events that they had only inferred from post-event visual evidence. In general, error rates were higher when visual evidence that gave rise to inferences was relatively close to direct visual evidence. Furthermore, errors persisted even when participants were asked to report the specific sources of their memories. Crucially, these error patterns were equivalent across language groups, suggesting that speaking a language that obligatorily encodes source of information does not increase sensitivity to the distinction between perception and inference in event memory.




Ünal, E., Pinto, A., Bunger, A., & Papafragou, A. (2016). Monitoring sources of event memories: A cross-linguistic investigation. Journal of Memory and Language, 87, 157–176.

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