Department of Psychology and Behavioural Sciences

Evidence that "voluntary" versus "involuntary" retrieval is a fluency-based attribution

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  • Mevagh Sanson, School of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand
  • Brittany A. Cardwell, Department of Psychology, University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Anne Scharling Rasmussen
  • Maryanne Garry, School of Psychology, University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

Our memories can come to mind either voluntarily—after we intended to retrieve them—or, involuntarily—without our intent. Studies often rely upon subjects themselves to classify their memories as voluntary or involuntary. But how well do subjects perform this task? There is reason to suspect that subjects sometimes base these classifications of intent on feelings of fluency—that is, ease of retrieval—leading them to misclassify their memories. In four experiments, we investigated the extent to which making an experience of voluntary retrieval feel fluent leads subjects to ascribe involuntary attributes to that retrieval. Our findings provide the first experimental demonstration that when subjects intentionally, yet fluently, bring a memory to mind, they may mistakenly judge that the retrieval occurred without intent.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPsychological Reports
Pages (from-to)141-158
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2020

    Research areas

  • Fluency, intent, involuntary memory, retrieval ease, voluntary memory

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