The Misinformation Effect (OpenStax Psychology 2e)
Cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has conducted extensive research on memory. She has studied false memories as well as recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. Loftus also developed the misinformation effect paradigm, which holds that after exposure to additional and possibly inaccurate information, a person may misremember the original event.
According to Loftus, an eyewitness’s memory of an event is very flexible due to the misinformation effect. To test this theory, Loftus and John Palmer (1974) asked 45 U.S. college students to estimate the speed of cars using different forms of questions. The participants were shown films of car accidents and were asked to play the role of the eyewitness and describe what happened. They were asked, “About how fast were the cars going when they (smashed, collided, bumped, hit, contacted) each other?” The participants estimated the speed of the cars based on the verb used.
Participants who heard the word “smashed” estimated that the cars were traveling at a much higher speed than participants who heard the word “contacted.” The implied information about speed, based on the verb they heard, had an effect on the participants’ memory of the accident. In a follow-up one week later, participants were asked if they saw any broken glass (none was shown in the accident pictures). Participants who had been in the “smashed” group were more than twice as likely to indicate that they did remember seeing glass. Loftus and Palmer demonstrated that a leading question encouraged them to not only remember the cars were going faster, but to also falsely remember that they saw broken glass.
Spielman, R. M., Jenkins, W. J., & Lovett, M. D. (2020). Psychology 2e. OpenStax. Houston, Texas. Accessed for free at https://openstax.org/details/books/psychology-2e
Date Published: April 27, 2018 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Chengcheng Shao, Pik-Mai Hui, Lei Wang, Xinwen Jiang, Alessandro Flammini, Filippo Menczer, Giovanni Luca Ciampaglia, Alain Barrat. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0196087 Abstract: Massive amounts of fake news and conspiratorial content have spread over social media before and after the 2016 US Presidential Elections despite intense fact-checking efforts. … Continue reading
Research Article: Self-delivered misinformation – Merging the choice blindness and misinformation effect paradigms
Date Published: March 8, 2017 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Lotta Stille, Emelie Norin, Sverker Sikström, Stefan Glasauer. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0173606 Abstract: Choice blindness is the failure to detect a discrepancy between a choice and its outcome. The misinformation effect occurs when the recollection of an event changes because new, misleading information about the event is … Continue reading
Date Published: July 27, 2017 Publisher: Public Library of Science Author(s): Sara Pluviano, Caroline Watt, Sergio Della Sala, Anne C. Moore. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0181640 Abstract: People’s inability to update their memories in light of corrective information may have important public health consequences, as in the case of vaccination choice. In the present study, we compare three potentially … Continue reading