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Self-reported mental imagery fails to explain false memory susceptibility

S. Kate Devitt

Thursday, November 09, 2006, 12:00pm - 07:00pm

Rutgers University, Department of Philosophy

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A measure that frequently correlates with high false memoryvulnerability is the vivacity of self-reported mental imagery. That is, subjects who report mental images as "clear and as vivid as normal vision" tend to make more mistakes identifying the source of information during experimental tasks in false memory. The psychological test most frequently used in these tasks to measure mental imagery is the Vividness of Visual Imagery Questionnaire (VVIQ). I propose a radical thesis that the VVIQ may not even measure mental images. A high 'vividness' score in the VVIQ does not strictly refer to resemblance to perception, but instead may pick out a range of properties such as coherence, complexity, stability, familiarity and quantity of information that are phenomenologically associated with perceptual experience. If this is correct, then contrary to intuitive expectations, mental images are not necessary to report a vivid mental experience. I challenge whether the VVIQ is subtle enough to identify the mental processes responsible for false memory generation.

S. Kate Devitt