Researchers can conduct specific experiments to test a particular cognitive construction. Thus, Thomas et al. (2003) organized two experiments to determine how repetition and sensory elaboration contribute to the imagination inflation effect. The authors focused on the idea that false memories can emerge due to a specific memory characteristic, including a sensory detail or cognitive operation, or to general characteristics of familiarity (Thomas et al., 2003). Analysis of the study reveals that imagination inflation is more significant when individuals elaborately imagine making some actions.
As has been mentioned above, the article under consideration includes two experiments. Experiment 1 comprised 145 individuals that were divided into groups of six to ten people. Each group participated in three sessions where they were presented some of 72 action statements. During Session 1, the participants were asked to use objects on the table to either perform or imagine performing 48 actions, having 15 seconds for each. Session 2 occurred 24 hours later, and the recruited individuals were to imagine making some 48 actions without any objects. The participants used simple or elaborate imaging (implying sensory details). During Session 3, the individuals returned two weeks later to listen to all 72 critical actions statements and answer where each of them had been presented during Session 1. If they answered ‘yes,’ they also revealed whether they performed or imagined the action.
Experiment 2 included 303 individuals who were also engaged in three sessions that implied dealing with 54 bizarre action statements. Session 1 was identical to that of Experiment 1, and the participants were asked to perform or imagine actions for 15 seconds. During Session 2, the individuals elaborately imagined, individually imagined, or read actions statements. Elaborate imaging denoted that the participants were given a three-sentence script that introduced some sensory details. In individual imaging, the recruited people were asked to create their own two-sentence guidelines with sensory cues. Session 3 stipulated that the participants listened to all the statements and made remember (R) or know (K) statements. R statements denoted that an individual had a vivid memory of the presentation, while K responses implied that the participants did not have the feeling of remembering regarding the action presentation.
The statistical analysis of the obtained responses allowed the authors to identify some results. The most evident finding referred to the fact that elaborate imaging of performing actions contributed to the most significant imagination inflation. It is reasonable to admit that the results were identical irrespective of whether the researchers guided imagination (as in Experiments 1 and 2) or the participants dealt with individual imaging. Each of these strategies resulted in a higher number of false memories.
In conclusion, it is necessary to discuss what these results denote. The research article under analysis demonstrated that when individuals included sensory details during their imagination, there was a higher likelihood that false memories could emerge. The rationale behind this suggestion is that elaborate imaging, either researcher or individually-driven, results in the emergence of more perceptual information. When this occurs, a person’s memory contains a few details about a specific action, which results in the fact that the false memory can be confused with having performed this action. Consequently, the two experiments demonstrated that false memories, in particular, and imagination inflation, in general, occur in those cases when people generate many details during their imagination processes.
Thomas, A. K., Bulevich, J. B., & Loftus, E. F. (2003). Exploring the role of repetition and sensory elaboration in the imagination inflation effect. Memory & Condition, 31(4), 630-640.