Semantic influences on episodic memory distortions

AbstractSemantic knowledge can facilitate or distort new memories, depending on their alignment. We aimed to quantify distortions in memory by examining how category membership biases new encoding. Across two experiments, participants encoded and retrieved image-location associations on a 2D grid. The locations of images were manipulated so that most members of a category (e.g. birds) were clustered near each other, but some were in random locations. Memory for an item’s location was more precise when it was near members of the same category. Furthermore, typical category members’ retrieved locations were more biased towards their semantic neighbors, relative to atypical members. This demonstrates that the organization of semantic knowledge can explain bias in new memories.

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