False memories in highly superior autobiographical memory individuals

Lawrence Patihis, Aurora LePort, Steven Frenda, Nicole Petersen, Rebecca Nichols, Craig Stark, James McGaugh, Elizabeth Loftus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The recent identification of highly superior autobiographical memory (HSAM) raised the possibility that there may be individuals who are immune to memory distortions. We measured HSAM participants’ and age- and sex-matched controls’ susceptibility to false memories using several research paradigms. HSAM participants and controls were both susceptible to false recognition of nonpresented critical lure words in an associative word-list task. In a misinformation task, HSAM participants showed higher overall false memory compared with that of controls for details in a photographic slideshow. HSAM participants were equally as likely as controls to mistakenly report they had seen nonexistent footage of a plane crash. Finding false memories in a superior-memory group suggests that malleable reconstructive mechanisms may be fundamental to episodic remembering. Paradoxically, HSAM individuals may retrieve abundant and accurate autobiographical memories using fallible reconstructive processes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20947–20952
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number52
Publication statusPublished - 24 Dec 2013


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