Memory loss versus memory distortion: the role of encoding and retrieval deficits in Korsakoff patients' false memories.

Research paper by Ilse I Van Damme, Gery G d'Ydewalle

Indexed on: 04 Mar '09Published on: 04 Mar '09Published in: Memory (Hove, England)


Recent studies with the Deese/Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm have revealed that Korsakoff patients show reduced levels of false recognition and different patterns of false recall compared to controls. The present experiment examined whether this could be attributed to an encoding deficit, or rather to problems with explicitly retrieving thematic information at test. In a variation on the DRM paradigm, both patients and controls were presented with associative as well as categorised word lists, with the order of recall and recognition tests manipulated between-subjects. The results point to an important role for the automatic/controlled retrieval distinction: Korsakoff patients' false memory was only diminished compared to controls' when automatic or short-term memory processes could not be used to fulfil the task at hand. Hence, the patients' explicit retrieval deficit appears to be crucial in explaining past and present data. Results are discussed in terms of fuzzy-trace and activation-monitoring theories.