Date of Award

Spring 5-18-2019

Degree Type


Degree Name

MS Experimental Psychology




Marianne Lloyd, PhD

Committee Member

Kelly Goedert, PhD

Committee Member

Deanne Westerman, PhD


revelation effect, illusions, aging, false memory, visual imagery, memory


The revelation effect is a memory illusion in recognition memory where items are more likely to be considered old if they are immediately preceded by a cognitive task (for a review, see Abfalg, Bernstein, & Hockley, 2017). Recent research has shown that the revelation effect appears in past and future episodic judgments so long as the tasks are autobiographical in nature (Westerman, Miller, & Lloyd, 2017). Aging is a factor that has not yet been studied in the revelation effect literature in terms of autobiographical memory. It has implications because of aging’s significant impact on mental time travel. During this experiment, young adults and older adults rated life events based on if those events had occurred in their childhoods or would occur within the next ten years. Half of the life events were preceded by a revelation task (an anagram). Object and spatial imagery skills were measured at the end of each session. Revelation effects did not differ with age. Object and spatial imagery were correlated, consistent with past findings, and object imagery predicted the revelation effect in an age-dependent manner: as object imagery increased, the revelation effect decreased in older adults but increased in young adults. Young adults also gave greater ratings overall while older adults were more conservative. These ratings may reflect both object imagery abilities as well as age-related cognitive decline. Overall, the results support the ones by Thapar & Sniezek (2008) in that they challenge both the original claim that older adults are not susceptible to the revelation effect (Prull et al., 1998), as well as the consensus that aging is associated with higher vulnerability across memory illusions. The findings also highlight the importance of exploring object imagery’s role in aging and autobiographical tasks.

Keywords: the revelation effect, illusions, aging, false memory, visual imagery, memory