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The impact of lying about a traumatic virtual reality experience on memory

Journal article
Authors Tameka Romeo
Henry Otgaar
Tom Smeets
Sara Landström
Didi Boerboom
Published in Memory and Cognition
Volume 47
Issue 3
Pages 485–495
ISSN 0090-502X
Publication year 2019
Published at Department of Psychology
Pages 485–495
Language en
Keywords Coping, Denial, Fabrication, Memory
Subject categories Applied Psychology


The goal of the present experiment was to examine the effect of certain (deceptive) strategies (e.g., false denial) on memory. Specifically, participants were shown a traumatic virtual reality (VR) video of an airplane crash. Following this, participants (N= 94) received questions concerning details from the VR scene in a baseline memory task. Then, participants could choose from 3 options how to cope in response to having experienced the VR scene: tell the truth, falsely deny, or fabricate. The majority opted to tell the truth (n = 81). A subsample of truth tellers were instructed to falsely deny having seen certain details. One week later, all participants received a source monitoring task in which they were asked (1) whether they remembered talking about these details during an interview, and (2) whether they remembered seeing certain details during the VR experience the week before. Participants had to tell the truth during this task. Participants who were instructed to falsely deny showed impaired memory for presented details that had previously been discussed (i.e., denial-induced forgetting) and seen in the VR scene. Also, the presentation of certain details in the baseline memory task seemed to inoculate participants who were instructed to falsely deny from experiencing memory impairment. The current experiment suggests that false denials can have adverse ramifications for memory for what is discussed and seen.

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