Does misremembering drive false alarms for emotional lures? A diffusion model investigation
Previous evidence has shown that, in a recognition memory task, emotion leads participants to make more false alarms and decreases response times (RTs) for false alarm responses. This pattern could arise because participants adopt more liberal responding for emotional stimuli and/or because emotional lures are more likely than neutral lures to produce misleading memory retrieval. Recently, Starns et al. designed a new recognition memory paradigm and found that the speed of memory errors shows the influence of misleading information resulting in unavoidable memory errors. This study investigates the basis of false alarms to emotional lures by testing predictions of the diffusion model for a recognition paradigm similar to that by Starns et al. Participants studied lists of emotional words and then completed an old–new recognition memory test. After each old–new decision, participants were asked to make a forced-choice recognition decision that provided a chance to correct possible errors on the preceding old–new decision. Under the assumption that emotion promotes misremembering, the diffusion model predicts that forced-choice accuracy should be lower for pairs with emotional versus neutral lures and that faster old–new errors should be associated with lower forced-choice accuracy. This study tested these predictions, providing theoretical insights into how emotion affects memory retrieval and further developing a new methodology for measuring recognition performance.