Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2021

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Recent studies have shown that older adults are more susceptible to context-based misperceptions in hearing than are younger adults, a phenomenon that has been referred to as false hearing (Rogers et al., 2012; Sommers et al., 2015). The authors of these studies have noted similarities between false hearing and false memories (Jacoby et al., 2005), suggesting that the two phenomena may arise from similar cognitive mechanisms. The present dissertation project investigated similarities between false hearing and false memories. In Experiment 1, I directly compared susceptibility to false hearing and false memories in younger and older adults. I then investigated two cognitive mechanisms that could underlie these phenomena: inhibitory control and executive functioning. I found that poorer executive functioning was related to increased susceptibility to both false hearing and false memory, supporting executive functioning as a common cognitive mechanism underlying these phenomena. In Experiment 2, I tested whether the predictive strength of sentences influenced susceptibility to false hearing, building upon the finding of a strong relationship between backwards associative strength and susceptibility to false memory (Deese, 1959; Roediger et al., 2001b). I found that the predictive strength of sentences was positively associated with susceptibility to false hearing, supporting the idea that increasing inhibitory control demands increased the likelihood that false hearing would occur. Finally, I present eye-tracking data suggesting that predictive sentences increased activation of a single word, and that older adults were less likely than younger adults to suppress this activation when a different word was presented. The findings of these experiments support the idea that false hearing and false memory share at least one common cognitive mechanism, but highlight differences between these phenomena and between younger and older adults.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Mitchell S. Sommers

Committee Members

Mark A. McDaniel, Jonathan E. Peelle, Henry L. Roediger, III, Kristin J. Van Engen,