Toward a psychology of memory accuracy

Annu Rev Psychol. 2000;51:481-537. doi: 10.1146/annurev.psych.51.1.481.


There has been unprecedented interest in recent years in questions pertaining to accuracy and distortion in memory. This interest, catalyzed in part by real-life problems, marks a significant departure from the quantity-oriented approach that has characterized much of traditional memory research. We outline a correspondence metaphor of memory underlying accuracy-oriented research, and show how the features of this metaphor are manifested across the disparate bodies of research reviewed here. These include work in the Gestalt tradition, spatial memory, memory for gist, schema theory, source monitoring, fluency misattributions, false recall and recognition, postevent misinformation, false memories, eyewitness research, and autobiographical memory. In examining the dynamics of memory accuracy, we highlight the importance of metacognitive monitoring and control processes. We end by discussing some of the methodological, theoretical, and metatheoretical issues inherent in accuracy-oriented research, attempting to prepare the groundwork for a more coherent psychology of memory accuracy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Illusions*
  • Memory / classification*
  • Mental Recall
  • Models, Psychological
  • Repression, Psychology*