True and false memory for colour names versus actual colours: Support for the visual distinctiveness heuristic in memory for colour information


In a colour variation of the Deese-Roediger-McDermott (DRM) false memory paradigm, participants studied lists of words critically related to a nonstudied colour name (e.g., "blood, cherry, scarlet, rouge... "); they later showed false memory for the critical colour name (e.g., "red"). Two additional experiments suggest that participants generate colour imagery in response to such colour-related DRM lists. First, participants claim to experience colour imagery more often following colour-related than standard non-colour-related DRM lists; they also rate their colour imagery as more vivid following colour-related lists. Second, participants exhibit facilitative priming for critical colours in a dot selection task that follows words in the colour-related DRM list, suggesting that colour-related DRM lists prime participants for the actual critical colours themselves. Despite these findings, false memory for critical colour names does not extend to the actual colours themselves (font colours). Rather than leading to source confusion about which colours were self-generated and which were studied, presenting the study lists in varied font colours actually worked to reduce false memory overall. Results are interpreted within the framework of the visual distinctiveness hypothesis. © 2009 The Experimental Psychology Society.

Document Type





Colour imagery, DRM, False memory, Visual Distinctiveness

Publication Date


Journal Title

Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology