When Knowing Becomes Remembering: Individual Differences in Susceptibility to Suggestion

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In two experiments, the authors explored factors that might influence a person's tendency to make source-monitoring errors about autobiographical memories. In the first experiment, undergraduates retrieved a memory from childhood (a) that was known about but not remembered, (b) that was remembered, or (c) for which they were unsure of their memory's source. After writing down the memory, experimental groups listened to a guided visualization tape and answered questions about the event--interventions designed to help them focus on details of their memory. Controls also retrieved and wrote down a memory; however, instead of visualizing the memory, they were instructed to conduct a visual search task. Results indicated that guided visualization led participants to rate known memories closer to remembered events. A second experiment examined individual difference variables that might be related to this know-to-remember shift. Results indicated that extraversion, external locus of control, a memory that conveyed fear, and overall affective content predicted this rating. The applicability of these findings to the psychotherapy process is discussed.