Mental imagery is an effective way to improve memory and reduce some false memories, new research finds.
People in the study who were told to create images for words were better able to remember them.
Images also helped people avoid false memories.
Ms Merrin Oliver, the study’s first author, said:
“Creating images improved participants’ memories and helped them commit fewer errors, regardless of what kind of list we gave them.”
False memories can be related to misremembering the source, Ms Oliver explained:
“We aren’t good at judging the source of our memories.
These lists usually remind people of a word that they didn’t actually study, so they mistakenly recollect studying words similar to those on the list.”
For the research, one group were told to use imagery to remember a list of words while the other were just told to remember the words.
Ms Oliver said:
“Our study suggests more detailed imagery instructions are necessary to help filter out false memories during a recognition test, where false memories are typically very high.
People should create detailed images with unique characteristics to help avoid the endorsement of false memories on recognition-based tests like true/false or multiple-choice assessments, where you are tempted by lures and possible false memories.”
The study was published in The Journal of General Psychology (Oliver et al., 2016).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Brain image from Shutterstock