The “memory” misinformation effect may not be caused by memory failures: Exploring memory states of misinformed subjects

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Abstract

In experiments concerning the misinformation effect, participants first watch some original material, e.g. a video clip, and read a description that in the experimental group contains information inconsistent with the video clip. Afterwards, all participants answer questions about the video. Typically, the misled group more often reports erroneous misleading information than the non-misled one.Theoretical explanations of this effect are usually formulated in terms of the cognitive theories of memory. This article presents three experiments that demonstrate that the misinformation effect can occur even if the memory of the original and postevent materials is correct. In the experiments, after watching a video clip, reading a narrative about it, and answering questions about the video, the participants were debriefed and required to indicate questions in which they noticed differences between the video and the narrative, as well as provide answers about the original and postevent materials. A substantial number of the participants yielded to the misinformation effect in the memory test even though they had correct memory about the original (and postevent) materials. The discussion emphasizes the need of the social influence framework to explain these results. Key message: the misinformation effect is important for applied forensic eyewitness psychology. To get a better understanding of this effect, there is a need to study it not only in terms of the cognitive psychology of memory, but also from the perspective of social psychology, because in many cases witnesses give wrong answers even when remembering the correct information.

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