False Memories in Bilinguals
The question of how two different languages can affect the memory of bilingual individuals has consistently been present throughout the literature in psychology (Altarriba, 2003; Marmolejo, Dilberto-Macaluso and Altarriba, 2009; Schrauf, 2000). Researchers have been curious to discover whether these languages are both stored in the same parts of the mind, how they affect the memories of bilingual individuals, what the advantages and disadvantages are of knowing two languages, and whether being bilingual affects the individual’s ability to recognize and recall information. The inquisition of these issues has inspired the undertaking of the present research, which sought to ascertain how bilingualism affects false recall in the memories of the individuals associated with an orientation towards using the Greek and English languages.
A false memory is a mental experience that is mistaken as a veridical representation of an event from an individual’s past (Johnson & Raye, 1998). False memories can manifest in both minor and major forms, having significant implications both for the individual and for others (Johnson & Raye, 1998).
For example, one may have a false memory as minor as believing that they saw their keys in the kitchen when in actual fact they are in the living room; or one may have a false memory as major as believing that they were the inventor of a famous idea, or that they were sexually abused as a child (Johnson & Raye, 1998). The nature of false memories is not limited to confusion between reality and imagination. Elements from various perceived events, such as television news and a fictional novel, may also be confused. This is known by psychologists as source confusion or misattribution and can be described through the Source Monitoring Framework (SMF) (Johnson, Hashtroudi & Lindsay, 1993). The literature highlights the importance of understanding that although memories have been confabulated; it does not mean that the original information was lost. Thus, representations of perception and those which have been constructed by the mind may both be stored in the memory and manifest under different conditions (Johnson, 1981; Reyna & Brainerd, 1995).
With regard to language orientation, the knowledge and use of more than one language have been found to be one of the conditions in which false memories are manifested (Sahlin, Harding & Seamon, 2005). The effort has been made to elaborate on this condition throughout this introduction. Researchers have proposed that false memories can cross language boundaries through the findings that conceptual representations of words provide an appropriate climate for false memories to appear in as opposed to specific lexical representations, where errors in memory were found to be significantly decreased (Sahlin, Harding & Seamon, 2005). These findings were tested by the notion that bilingual witnesses are equally as susceptible to post-event misinformation, whether it was presented in the same language as the actual event, or in another language that they speak (Shaw, Garcia & Robles, 1997). The fact that language context makes no difference to post-event misinformation provides sufficient grounds to inquire whether there are any differences at all in false memory recall between monolinguals and bilinguals.
Theory indicates that bilinguals process information in a different way to monolinguals (Bialystok, Craik & Luk, 2012; Martin et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2011). The reason for this has been suggested as the notion that bilinguals tend to encode experiences and information in two languages rather than one (Grosjean, 1989). Where monolinguals utilize only one language in their minds during the encoding process, bilinguals utilize two, which has been found to have a significant effect on memory performance when comparing bilingual and monolingual individuals (Ardila, 2014; Paivio, 2014). For example, bilingual individuals have been found to combine languages, resulting in a more enhanced cognitive performance in recognition and recall of information than monolinguals (Francis, 1999). These findings provide further grounds to investigate the extent to which cognitive processes are at an advantage through bilingualism, and whether bilingualism could result in more false memories than monolingualism. Thus, with reference to the difference that language context could make to one’s memory performance, it has been suggested that language may be used as a retrieval cue when eliciting memories from past experiences (Altarriba, 2003), suggesting that the original language context plays a significant role in the quality and nature of the memories retrieved (Godden & Baddeley, 1975). Consequently, this provides implication for further research as it lays a foundation for the speculation that bilingual individuals may be more susceptible to false memory, signifying a disadvantage as opposed to the enhanced cognitive processing that was suggested by the findings of Francis (1999).
It may be suggested that the reason for the differences between monolingual and bilingual recall is due to the functioning of the phonological loop, a short term memory system for auditory information acting as ‘the mind’s voice’ when processing information (Lindberg, 2005). The phonological loop plays a crucial role in learning new words in native and foreign languages (Salame & Baddeley, 1986). Researchers propose that acquisition of a new language expands the phonological loop allowing the individual to access a larger store of sounds and words (Salame & Baddeley, 1986). However, the effects that the cognitive enhancement has on the Long Term Memory and the overall functioning of the Working Memory has been suggested to leave bilinguals at a disadvantage, as the literature also suggests that processing words in a second language consume additional working memory resources in bilinguals (Service et al, 2002). This suggests that overall memory performance in bilinguals is reduced because of increased concentration on the textual definition and relationship between words (Service et al, 2002). Therefore, it is appropriate to question if false memories could be a result of reduced working memory performance, or whether they are a result of enhanced cognitive processing in bilingual individuals.
In order to understand the concept of working memory of bilinguals better in its relation to false memory, it is relevant to consider how false memories are created. Memories can include errors at the time of encoding becoming distorted (Roediger & McDermott, 1995). According to some, false memories may also be created by external suggestion (Loftus, 1997; Zhu et al, 2010), such as when someone suggests that an event had occurred in early childhood, and this information is retained by the individual as a memory, thus forming the basis of a false memory. This is named the misinformation effect phenomenon, as the misleading information, which is given to the individual, causes them to create false recollections of an event (Loftus, 1979; Loftus, and Hoffman, 1989; Tousignant, Hall, & Loftus, 1986). This phenomenon has also been shown to occur in a number of individuals from various backgrounds (Frenda, Nichols, and Loftus, 2012), including those who have been asked to recall events as eyewitnesses (Loftus, 2013; Patihis et al, 2013; Shaw, Garcia, & Robles, 1997). Consequently, the misinformation effect phenomenon may offer one explanation for the creation of false memories in the working memory.
With regards to language orientation, experiments provide evidence to show that false memories may also be created because of the events that bilingual individuals recall in association with the words that they have been shown during experiments (Deese, 1959). This idea is pertinent to the creation of false memories in bilingual individuals, therefore, to further investigate this phenomenon, the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) paradigm was used as a methodology in which false memories were studied (Deese, 1959; Roediger, & McDermott, 1995). In a number of studies, participants were asked to recall a list of words, associated with one word in particular. For example, sadness may be associated with tears, pain, grief, unhappiness, sorrow, gloom, despondency, desolation, or melancholy. The word sadness is not shown in any of the lists, but the associated words are. The participants are then asked to recall as many words as they can remember. The results of the studies show false memories to be evident in the participants (Cann, McRae & Katz, 2011; Gallo, 2010; Koriat, Pansky & Goldsmith, 2011). This suggests that words hold semantic power and have the ability to influence memories by filling in any ‘gaps’, thus providing support for the notion that false memories are influenced by language. However, these studies may be criticised through the suggestion that individual differences play a significant role in working memory, and therefore must be considered when studying working memory (Daneman & Carpenter, 1980). For these language and memory studies, in particular, it should be considered that individual differences may play a major role in the way that an individual interprets words such as ‘tears’, ‘pain’, ‘grief’ ‘sorrow’ and so on, as these words may hold different connotations for individuals from different cultural backgrounds. With reference to false memory as a result of bilingualism, studies indicate that language was tested in separate DRM experiments but not manipulated as a factor. It was seen that each language had a different set of lists in the experiments. As a consequence, the comparison of words across languages must be considered with the utmost caution, as lists presented in one language may trigger a higher proportion of false recall that those presented in another language (Marmolejo, 2009). This suggests that bilingual individuals are more inclined to false memories than monolinguals. Therefore, it is essential that when DRM methods are used, these factors be considered as they may affect the results of the experiments. In conjunction, the findings from other studies have shown that where the second language proficiency of the bilingual participants is mixed, a higher number of false recalls are evident (Anastasi et al., 2005; Holliday, Kang and Lee, 2003; Marmolejo et al., 2009; Miyaji-Kawasaki, Inoue, & Yama, 2003). Hence, these findings must also be taken into consideration, as they may affect the outcomes of experiments that seek to examine the language recall or recognition of bilingual individuals and the incidence of false memories.
Other research shows that false memories in bilinguals may be created due to the Schema Theory (Bartlett, 1932), whereby different schemas in the mind represent different languages. These schemas store the information necessary so that bilingual individuals are able to use various languages. When new information is attained, errors occur when the old information becomes mixed with this (Bransford and Franks, 1971). This process, therefore, leads to a distortion in the memory, which may be used to explain why false memory recalls are observed when bilinguals are tested using the DRM method. From this knowledge, we can expect that the results of the present study will show that bilinguals have a higher tendency towards false memories.
Comparatively, Craik, and Lockhart (1972) stated that false memory recalls occurring due to the levels at which language is processed by the mind. According to the Levels of Processing theory (Craik & Lockhart, 1972), when memories are processed, it is undertaken on different levels. If the levels of processing are shallow, the memories that are created are weaker than those which are formulated on a deeper level (Gallo, 2013). Therefore, if language memories are formulated on a deeper level than new memories, they will be stronger than new ones. However, a number of studies have demonstrated that this is not advantageous as this leads to higher levels of false memory recall (Anderson, 2013; Hunt, Smith & Dunlap, 2011; Thapar & Mcdermott, 2001; Toglia, Neuschatz & Goodwin, 1999). This may be another way through which false memories may be created in the working memory of bilinguals. Yet, in opposition, it may be suggested that this is not only limited to bilinguals, and may also occur in monolinguals. However, the speculations for the present study do suggest that false memory will be an occurrence that is more prevalent among bilinguals, not limited to bilinguals.
Others have stated that the reasons for false recall may be found in the way in which semantic representations are strongly linked to language (Cann, McRae & Katz, 2011; Wakeford et al., 2009). Each language has a direct link to representations, thus, when these are presented under experimental conditions, errors are found. When both language memories are being accessed by the participants in DRM experiments (Gallo, 2010), this may cause confusion in their memory. As a result, this could lead to some memories being triggered simultaneously, which in turn causes false recalls or the creation of false memories. This explanation of why false memory recalls may occur in bilingual individuals is often referred to as the spreading activation theory (Gallo, 2013) and is with reference to the activation of different semantic networks, which are used to access language memories of bilingual individuals. As the semantic network is activated, its activity spreads out across the brain so that the language-related memories might be accessed and recalled.
In relation to this, another notion named fuzzy trace theory has also been proposed to explain false memory recalls (Toglia et al. 1999). According to LaTour, LaTour, and Brainerd, (2014), false memories are seen as a result of deficient processing. However, recent psychological research has shown that elaboration and inferences can result in ‘smart’ false memories. These ‘smart’ false memories are explained by the fuzzy-trace theory (FTT), which assumes that they derive from the comprehension of the meaning of the experience. FTT predicts that ‘smart’ false memories should be positively correlated with measured levels of Need for Cognition. (LaTour, LaTour & Brainerd, 2014)
Thus, as information is processed and encoded in two different languages the representations, speech, and main points of these memories are formed simultaneously in conjunction with each other (Graves & Altarriba, 2014; Reyna & Brainerd, 1995; Reyna & Kiernan, 1994). In accord, the main points of these memories may become related to other familiar representations (Brainerd & Reyna, 2002) so false memories are created as these memories are recalled because they were never actually created in the first instance. For this reason, false memory recall is higher when second languages are learned as they are often learned through accessing memories associated with native languages, which have their own schematic representations in the bilingual individual’s memory (Toglia et al., 1999). From this knowledge, it can be expected that the results of the present study will show that bilingual individuals are more inclined to accumulate false memories.
On reflection of the evidence at hand, the several ways in which false memory recalls are created may begin to be ascertained. Errors in processing may be the cause (Anderson, 2013; Hunt, Smith & Dunlap, 2011; Thapar & Mcdermott, 2001; Toglia, Neuschatz & Goodwin, 1999), receiving inaccurate or false information (Loftus, 1979; Loftus & Hoffman, 1989; Tousignant, Hall & Loftus, 1986) or differing levels of language proficiency (Anastasi et al., 2005; Holliday, Kang & Lee, 2003; Marmolejo et al., 2009; Miyaji-Kawasaki, Inoue & Yama, 2003) may be held accountable. A single explanation that determines how or why false memory phenomena may occur more in bilinguals than in monolinguals do not exist. Therefore, it is important that a number of theories are considered when investigating why false memory recall occurs in bilingual individuals. It is also essential that these notions be examined further, in order for a deeper insight into why false recalls are more prevalent in some situations than in others. This could help to establish which of the notions that have been discussed are more accurate. In turn, this would enable a deeper understanding of how individuals that speak two languages utilize their memories.
The present study sought to examine and ascertain how bilingualism influences false memory recall in individuals using the Greek and English languages. The research question at hand asked: To what extent does bilingualism influence the veridical and false memory recalls of individuals when they are asked to remember dissimilar alphabetic scripts. Therefore, the aim of the present research study was to test the effects of bilingualism on veridical and false memory recall when individuals were asked to recall dissimilar alphabetic scripts. In order to test this, the hypotheses were devised in accord to the literature covered suggested that Bilingual individuals will falsely recall words in Greek or English as they create false memories; Bilingual individuals will falsely recall different languages in different proportions, depending upon whether it is their native or non-native language; False recalls will occur in non-native languages more than native languages and false recognition will occur more in non-native languages than native languages.
These hypotheses were tested through the execution of several experiments. The methods that were employed are detailed in the next section of this report.
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