Using the Imagined False Autobiographical Memory Task to Examine the Language of Narrative Lies
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Narrative memories are memories of experienced events. A narrative lie is the deliberate attempt to mislead by telling an imagined narrative as though it actually occurred. According to the theory of reality monitoring, narratives of imagined memories are different than narratives of experienced memories. The present study investigated the language of narrative lies compared to the language of honest memory reports across two visual recall perspectives (first-person and observer). Participants were asked to tell an experienced and an imagined narrative from the first-person and observer recall perspective. Three algorithms that measure word usage were applied to examine the differences, two using the Linguistic Inquiry Word Count (LIWC) program and one using the Discourse Attributes Analysis Program (DAAP). The results showed a significant bias toward recalling experienced memories from a first-person perspective that was not present for imagined memories. Neither LIWC-based nor DAAP-based algorithms detected narrative source (real or imagined) above chance levels for first-person narratives. When applied to the narratives recalled from the observer perspective, accuracy for all algorithms improved or was unchanged. Narrative source (real or imagined) was most accurately classified by the reality monitoring algorithm utilizing the LIWC software for narratives recalled from the observer perspective, significantly improved over chance and the other algorithms.