Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science



First Advisor

Daniel Burns




memories, task, survival, death, participants


Some researchers speculate memory systems are adaptations that arose to enable the storage of survival related information. Supporting this view, information processed for survival relevance and death relevance has been shown to produce a memory advantage that is superior to deep processing control conditions. While these procedures increase recall, the information retrieved is not necessarily accurate. The purpose of the present study was to investigate the effects of survival processing and death processing on the formation of false memories. In addition, through analyses of cumulative recall curves the extent of relational and item-specific processing was examined to explore the proximate mechanisms underlying the effects. Participants were placed into a survival, death, moving, or pleasantness condition. They were instructed to rate lists of words, which have been shown to produce false memories, for their relevance to the given scenarios. It was predicted that if death processing and survival processing are related, then participants would recall a similar number of list items and false memories. Although not significant, analyses of the surprise memory task revealed the survival condition had the highest numerical recall of list items, while the death condition had the lowest. The death condition significantly differed from the other conditions by producing the highest recall of false memories. The survival condition did not lead to an increase in false memories. Overall, the results suggest survival and dying scenarios do not share similar underlying mechanisms.