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Differentiated Effects of Neutral, Plausible Misleading, and Implausible Misleading Texts on Eye Witness Memory

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Differentiated Effects of Neutral, Plausible Misleading, and Implausible Misleading Texts on Eye Witness Memory  

Dong Jin

California State University

Abstract

This paper is about influences of neutral text, false/plausible misleading text, and false/implausible misleading text on response based on eyewitness memory. The experiment was done to indentify if participants who read false/plausible misleading text are more likely take false/plausible answers than participant who read false/implausible misleading text. To do this, 122 psychology major students were recruited. Three different kinds of texts were given to them randomly after watching a robbery clip, and participants read the texts and solved 10 multiple choice questions. As a result, it is showed that basically different text has different impact on how the participants response. Concretely, reading false/plausible text causes more false/plausible responses, and reading false/implausible text let the errors that participants make reduced.

Differentiated Effects of Neutral, Plausible Misleading, and Implausible Misleading Texts on Eye Witness Memory  

Day by day, people experience so many things. From waking up in the morning to going to bed at night, people see lots of items. Empirically, they know that visual memory is a major part of human memory. This visual memory sometimes can be forgotten, but it is undeniable that people make good use of this memory. Not only in everyday life but also in some professional environments it has been used. For instance, in a research done by Alonzo and Lane (2009), eyewitness which is totally based on visual memory has a major influence on court. However, this kind of memory has usually criticized for inaccuracy and possibility of mistakes. Therefore, it is important to get to know which factors have an effect on the memory.

        Someone may believe that their visual memory is quite accurate. However, it is not true. Memory can be false in many cases. Nemeth and Belli (2006) mentioned participants who were exposed to misinformation reminded previous memories wrongly. This false memory is different from forgetting. While forgetting is about losing what people remembered, false memory is about distorted memory. The distorted memory is usually caused by misleading information. Lindsay and Johnson (1989) talked about eyewitness suggestibility. They argued that participants were misled by some misleading information even though they could know what the source was.

        Some typical experiments about misleading information were done by Loftus, Burns, and Miller (1978). They did 6 experiments about eyewitness memory. The purpose of those experiments was to know whether other information given after main information have an effect on participants’ memory, and if there was an influence, how later information changed their memory. In each experiment, 3 different types of information were given after a specific situation. There were 2 tests which were yes/no and forced-choice recognition test. The authors found that any information that participants got after the situation had an influence on their memory. Especially, they saw that misleading information increased errors that the participants would make.        

Plausibility is another important factor about memory experiment. Pezdek, Finger, and Hodge (1997) did 2 researches about the plausibility. They examined that how plausible misinformation affected participants’ memory. On the experiment, participants read a few stories that contained true, false/plausible, and false/implausible texts. From the research, the writers concluded that plausibility was significant in whether false memories would be accepted.

From the earlier paragraphs, two things can be known. Firstly, misleading information causes distorted eyewitness memory. Secondly, false and plausible information are more likely to deceive participants. Therefore, this can be assumed that the plausibility of misinformation might be important in whether it causes distorted eyewitness memory. The purpose of this paper is to find if exposing plausible misleading is more likely to lead false memories than exposing implausible misleading information or not.

Firstly, it was supposed that different types of texts given to participants (neutral, plausible misleading, or implausible misleading) after seeing a robbery video have different effects on what they answered. The second hypothesis was that false/plausible text causes more errors when read by participants than false/implausible text. The third one was that participants who read false/implausible text show fewer mistakes when they response compared to participants who read false/plausible text. Finally, it was hypothesis that participants who read implausible text and participants who read neutral text choose false/implausible responses similarly.  

Method

Participant

Participants were 122 students recruited at California State University, San Bernardino. They were students taking Psyc-311 class during the spring 2013 quarter. They were all English speaking people and over 18 years old. There were no incentives to participate this survey. They were voluntary to the experiment. All participants were treated in accordance with the Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct (American Psychological Association, 2002)

Materials

        Materials needed to this experiment were an instruction sheet, a video clip, 3 different reports, and 10 questions about a robbery. The first material was the instruction sheet. It basically explained about how the experiment would progress. According to circumstances, a consent form could be prepared. The next material was a video approximately 2 minutes long. The video was describing a robbery scene. The third one was 3 different reports that each one had neutral, plausible misleading, and implausible misleading depictions of the clip. The last material consisted of 10 multiple choice questions. Each question had 3 choices, but there was only one correct answer.

Procedure

        The participants were invited in a room. They were about 20 people. The condition about the experiment was randomly assigned. The researchers gave the instruction sheet to the participants and let them read it carefully. Based on the instruction sheet, firstly researchers played the video clip back to participants. Then, the researchers distributed one of 3 different types of reports and said it described the clip. After all participants read the report, they had to answer 10 multiple choice questions that had 3 choices. When all the process finished, the researchers explained about the experiment in detail.

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