Attachment working models and false recall: a category structure approach



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Two studies were conducted to test the central hypothesis that internal working models of attachment will influence false memory in a model-congruent pattern. Participants in both studies were first primed with a relationship-specific attachment model by writing about a person with whom they shared a secure, anxious, or avoidant relationship. Next participants viewed attachment-relevant and non-relevant stimuli presented in either a word list or vignette format. Afterwards they completed a brief distracter task followed by a category cued-recall memory test. Study 2 participants also reported confidence ratings for each word recalled. Results from both studies demonstrated interactive effects between chronic attachment and relationshipspecific models in predicting false memories. Effects were found primarily for attachment stimuli relevant to social isolation and hate/rejection themes. Both model-congruent and modelincongruent effects emerged depending on stimuli set and chronic attachment style. Notably, no attachment-based differences in false memories occurred for non-attachment stimuli. Finally, a consistent association was found between confidence in false recall and congruence between participants' chronic and relationship-specific working models; specifically, greater confidence was associated with congruency, and lower confidence with incongruence. This pattern occurred for both attachment-relevant and non-relevant stimuli. The results of this research provide further support for a key proposition of attachment theory; namely, that relationship working models influence how individuals process relationship-relevant information in general. In addition, this research contributes new knowledge regarding the generation of false memories in particular.