Learning induced illusions: Statistical learning creates false memories


The cognitive system readily extracts regularities in terms of object co-occurrences over space and time through statistical learning. However, how does learning such relationships influence the memory representations of individual objects? Here we used a false memory paradigm to examine the impact of statistical learning on memory representations of individual objects. Observers were exposed to a temporal sequence (Experiment 1) or spatial arrays (Experiment 2) of objects which contained object pairs (e.g., A-B). In a subsequent recognition phase, observers viewed a sequence or an array containing only one member of the original pair, and judged whether either the presented object or the missing object in the original pair was present. We found that statistical learning not only sharpened the detection of the presented object, but also induced a false memory of the missing object. This reveals a novel consequence of statistical learning: learning of regularities can create illusory memories.

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