Can false memories have a positive consequence on human cognition? In two experiments, we investigated whether false memories could prime insight problem-solving tasks. Children and adults were asked to solve compound remote associate task (CRAT) problems, half of which had been primed by the presentation of Deese/Roediger–McDermott (DRM) lists whose critical lures were also the solutions to the problems. In Experiment 1, the results showed that regardless of age, when the critical lure was falsely recalled, CRAT problems were solved more often and significantly faster than problems that were not primed by a DRM list. When the critical lure was not falsely recalled, CRAT problem solution rates and times were no different from when there was no DRM priming. In Experiment 2, without an intervening recall test, children and adults still exhibited higher solution rates and faster solution times to CRAT problems that were primed than to those that were not primed. This latter result shows that priming occurred as a result of false memory generation at encoding and not at retrieval during the recall test. Together, these findings demonstrate that when false memories are generated at encoding, they can prime solutions to insight-based problems in both children and adults.
Howe, M. L., Garner, S. R., Charlesworth, M., & Knott, L. (2011). A brighter side to memory illusions: False memories prime children’s and adults’ insight-based problem solving. Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, 108(2), 383-393. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jecp.2010.08.012