Paper Type

Master's Thesis


College of Arts and Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Arts in General Psychology (MAGP)



First Advisor

Dr. Michael Toglia

Second Advisor

Dr. Lori Lange

Department Chair

Dr. Michael Toglia

College Dean

Dr. David Fenner


Nairne, Thompson, and Pandeirada (2007) have focused on the evolutionary aspect of memory by showing that when participants rate words relative to their relationship to survival, their subsequent retention of those words is superior to other well-known encoding techniques. Survival processing was induced using a written scenario of being stranded in grasslands that participants read. Several other experiments have replicated their findings, and some incorporated the Deese–Roediger–McDermott (DRM) paradigm with survival-processing (Roediger, & McDermott, 1995). The use of DRM word lists has been shown to increase rates of false memories, and the same pattern held true with the original grassland scenario. The current experiment was designed to illustrate the adaptive memory effect in situations that humans presently experience on a common basis. The grasslands scenario was compared with two other modern scenarios. Furthermore, effect of survival processing on false memory was assessed using both DRM narratives and word lists. Most results support previous findings of the processing advantage elicited by the grassland scenario. However, words rated for relevancy to the non-survival related modern scenario were recalled more often than words from the other two scenarios. As expected, participants’ false and veridical memory was greater in the narrative condition compared with the word list condition. The survival-processing advantage does extend beyond word lists to the narrative format, supporting the evolutionary account that humans have selectively tuned cognitive processing. Keywords: memory, adaptive memory, evolution, survival processing, DRM, narrative, false memory, word list