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Misinformation Effect

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 There have been multiple explanations for misinformation effects. The first is memory impairment in which the original memory has been altered or overwritten by later information.This explanation states that once the original memory has been overwritten by new information, the original memory no longer exists (Loftus, 1979; see Loftus, 1992 for a review of her work).

This position has lost support in light of findings that certain instructions can aid participants in recalling the original information over the misinformation. These instructions were inserted to test the second explanation for the misinformation effect which is errors in source monitoring.

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Source monitoring maintains that the original memory is intact, but a competing memory (from a different source) has overridden the original memory. When participants have been instructed to carefully monitor the source of their memory they are less likely to identify misinformation as being a part of the original memory (Multhaup, De Leonardis, & Johnson, 1999).

However, source misattribution should not be confused with misinformation effect.

Source misattribution occurs when a remembered item is attributed to the incorrect source. Source misattribution can occur for any piece of memory.Misinformation pertains to specific pieces of memory.

Specific misinformation items (presented to experimental conditions) are remembered in place of the accurate memory. Misinformation has been described as a difference between the control and manipulated conditions in terms of recall accuracy performance. In the case of misinformation effects, there should only be source monitoring errors in the experimental conditions (Ayers & Reder, 1998). Both explanations of memory impairment and source monitoring are debated, although source monitoring tends to be more supported.

Social FactorsSocial influence is the process through which one person affects thoughts, beliefs, or behaviors of another person. Influence differs from persuasion in that influence can occur without intention. Social impact theory (SIT; Latané, 1981) proposes that the social impact a target experiences is a function of three factors related to the source. SIT states that the number of sources, the immediacy or proximity of the source to the target, and the strength or persuasiveness of a source have a multiplicative effect on the level of social influence.

Specifically, the number of sources acting on a target, the closer the source is physically or psychologically (e.g., the social relationship between the source and target), and the strength (in terms of social status and power) of the source to the target will determine the impact of social influence the source has on the target. A larger number of sources will have more influence on the target than fewer sources.

In addition, the closer in proximity or psychological distance (referring to the nature of the social relationship) the source is to the target, the more influence they will have relative to sources of further distance.Finally, the stronger a source is (meaning they are perceived as having higher social status or power), the more influence they will have than a lower strength source (Sedikides & Jackson, 1990). Strength refers to “salience, power, importance, or intensity of a given source…usually determined by the source’s status, age, socioeconomic status, and prior relationship with, or future power over the target” (Latané, 1981, p. 344).

Strength effects have been looked at in areas such as social inhibition, obedience, stage fright, persuasion, and compliance (Williams & Williams, 1989). In the past, strength has been manipulated by varying clothing and message (Sedikedes & Jackson, 1990). Sedikedes and Jackson (1990) found that 28% more people complied with the more formally dressed confederate (higher strength condition) supporting SIT’s prediction that higher strength sources will be more influential than weak sources. Whereas past research has looked more at behavioral compliance, this study will focus on strength effects for memory conformity.

Based on recent findings that it is not only the misinformation that may impact memory, but also factors involved in how and from whom that misinformation is encountered, the current research examined the effects of source strength on participants’ memory recall. If a face-to-face encounter with a source is more powerful than narratives in eliciting the misinformation effect (Gabbert et al., 2004), characteristics of that source may impact the degree of influence they have, as shown by the SIT research on compliance.Memory ConformityCialdini and Goldstein (2004) suggest three motivations that drive a person’s cognitions and behaviors regarding conformity.

These motivations include the need for 1) accuracy 2) affiliation and 3) maintenance of a positive self-concept. Research on the motivation for accuracy has shown that people will incorporate information from others when they are attempting to reconstruct their own memory (Basden, Basden, & Henry, 2000; Eakin, Schreiber, & Sergent-Marshall, 2003; Gabbert et al., 2003; Gabbert et al., 2004; Roediger, et al.

, 2001; Wright et al., 2000). A goal of affiliation results in attempts to gain social approval from others. Affiliation goals are met through behavioral mimicry (Chartrand & Bargh, 1999) as well as more conscious actions of conformity (Cialdini & Goldstein, 2004), while self-esteem is often maintained through meeting goals of accuracy and affiliation.

Research examining the effects of co-witness discussion has shown that individuals with differing information for an event can influence each other in either direction (becoming either more or less accurate; Gabbert et al., 2003; Wright et al., 2000). Wright et al.

(2000) similarly found that although participants were accurate in their original individual recall, they were still likely to incorporate misinformation presented by a co-witness after discussion. Gabbert et al. (2003) and Wright et al. (2000) both examined confidence ratings in an attempt to explain a relationship between confidence and conformity.

Using the accomplice present vs. accomplice absent stimuli, Wright et al. (2000) found that when a witness, who had seen an accomplice and was highly confident, was paired with a co-witness, who had not seen an accomplice, the cowitness was likely to conform to the highly confident witness and report having seen an accomplice when none was present. However, this was not the case for the confidence of the participant in the absent accomplice condition.

The confidence of participants appeared to have little to no connection to which direction the group conformed. Confidence appeared to only affect conformity in certain circumstances. After discussion and re-responding to recall questions and confidence, groups who conformed to agree that an accomplice was present had lower confidence whereas groups that conformed to agree that an accomplice was not present reported higher confidence (Wright et al., 2000).

The exact relationship of confidence and memory conformity is unclear.Also unclear is the effect of group size. Group size alone is insufficient for making predictions regarding memory conformity. Walther, Bless, Strack, Rackstraw, Wagner, and Werth (2002) identified multiple factors that impacted the influence group members had on each other in a memory conformity study.

These factors included the nature of the elements to be remembered (whether they were target objects or distracters in the slides shown), whether the objects were salient or non-salient, whether the responses given by other group members were accurate or inaccurate, and the number of dissenters in the group. Given the extensive nature of studying groups, this study only explores the nature of group size on the pertinent outcomes of misinformation, accuracy, and confidence.Recent findings that socially encountered misinformation provide stronger misinformation effects lead to new questions. Why are eyewitnesses more susceptible to misinformation when it is presented to them by another person or witness rather than through narrative accounts of the event? This suggests that how and by whom information is obtained may impact the extent to which the information is accepted.

What is it about the source that makes them more influential? This study examined strength as a characteristic of the information source that might make them more influential. Source strength, as described by SIT, was manipulated to examine its effect on the amount of misinformation participants would incorporate into memory, overall accuracy, and participants’ confidence in their memory. If the recent research on socially encountered misinformation effects continues to be supported, it will be important to understand what it is about this situation that leads to stronger effects. To do this, research examining characteristics of the source is necessary to fully understand this finding.

This study begins to address the issue of source characteristics on eyewitness memory and confidence focusing on source strength. In addition, the under-studied aspect of group discussion on memory conformity will be examined. The effects of group discussion, along with group size, on the misinformation effect, accuracy, and confidence were explored.HypothesesWhereas previous research was limited in examining the social influence implications of the information source, this research attempted to address the issue.

This study examined the impact of the social influence strength of the information source on the amount of misinformation later recalled for an event memory.1) Source Strength. It was hypothesized that higher levels of source strength would lead to more incorporation of misinformation items into later recall. Specifically, it was expected that participants receiving information from a high strength source would incorporate the most misinformation, followed by participants receiving misinformation from the moderate strength source, followed by the lower strength source.

It was unclear precisely how much misinformation would be recalled by participants receiving information from the ambiguous source relative to the other strength levels. It was also expected that participants receiving no misinformation would recall the least amount of misinformation.Incorporating elements of social influence and memory conformity is a new area of study, and therefore, not all relationships are clear. In light of this, exploratory analyses regarding the impact of source strength on confidence and accuracy were performed.

As was stated, due to the unclear relationship, no specific predictions were made prior to analysis.2) Group discussion. As the focus of this study was not on the nature of groups, but rather more simply the effects of group discussion, directional predictions were unable to be made. It was simply hypothesized that group discussion would have an affect on the number of misinformation items recalled by participants.

As very precise knowledge of the groups’ dynamic would be necessary to predict whether members would recall more or less misinformation after discussion, a precise prediction was not made. It was also hypothesized that discussion of the event would affect confidence ratings given by the participants. As it was unclear to whether group discussion would increase or decrease confidence based on previous findings (Wright et al., 2000), a specific direction was not hypothesized for the effect.

Again, as the directional effect of group discussion, given the complex nature of groups, on accuracy was unknown, it was simply hypothesized that group discussion would affect accuracy rates from pre- to post-discussion event recalls. The directional impact of group discussion was explored.Exploratory correlations between confidence and accuracy were examined pre- and postgroup discussion, although no predictions were made directly. These exploratory correlations were planned to examine the relationship between confidence and accuracy, as past research has been contradictory.

Because the directionality of group discussion effects were unclear for previous hypotheses, the effect of group size (the number of people in the group during discussion) was examined.MethodParticipantsParticipants were 127 primarily Caucasian University of Wyoming undergraduates (85 females, 34 males, and 8 participants who did not specify gender; ages ranging from 17-40, M = 19.5, SD = 2.61) who received credit for participating as part of their psychology course requirements.

Four participant’s data were excluded from analyses due to failure to complete the materials or previous exposure to the video stimulus.MaterialsMaterials (video, narratives, and recall questionnaire) were obtained from Gabbert et al. (2004) and slightly modified for the purposes of this study.Video: A 1 minute 30 second video in which a Blockbuster video store robbery is depicted (staged event) was shown as the target event stimulus.

The video began with an employee behind the counter, a customer then enters the store and asks the employee a question.After the customer has been directed toward his inquiry, two additional men enter the store. These men proceed toward the back of the store where they put on face masks and approach the employee telling him ‘this is a robbery’. The employee proceeds to empty the registers and the robbers leave the store. 

Cite this Misinformation Effect

Misinformation Effect. (2017, Apr 08). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/misinformation-effect/

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