Nonbelieved memories

Psychol Sci. 2010 Sep;21(9):1334-40. doi: 10.1177/0956797610379865. Epub 2010 Aug 5.


This is the first empirical study of vivid autobiographical memories for events that people no longer believe happened to them. Until now, this phenomenon has been the object of relatively rare, albeit intriguing, anecdotes, such as Jean Piaget's description of his vivid memory of an attempted abduction that never happened. The results of our study show that nonbelieved memories are much more common than is expected. Approximately 20% of our initial sample reported having at least one nonbelieved autobiographical memory. Participants' ratings indicate that nonbelieved memories share most recollective qualities of believed memories, but are characterized by more negative emotions. The results have important implications for the way autobiographical memory is conceptualized and for the false-memory debate.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Cognition
  • Data Collection
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall*
  • Middle Aged
  • Repression, Psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult