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Memory. 2008 Jan;16(1):58-75.

Trauma and memory: effects of post-event misinformation, retrieval order, and retention interval.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, University of California, Davis 95616, USA.


The present study concerned effects of misinformation, retrieval order, and retention interval on eyewitness memory for a traumatic event (a vivid murder). Relations between misinformation acceptance and compliance were also examined. The classic three-stage misinformation paradigm (Loftus, 1979) was employed, with a multi-component recognition test added. Either immediately or 2 weeks after viewing a distressing film, 232 adults read a narrative (misleading or control) about the murder and then took a recognition test that tapped memory for central and peripheral details. Test-item order either matched the chronology of the film or was randomly determined. Significant misinformation effects were obtained. Moreover, control participants were more accurate in response to questions about central than peripheral information; however, this was not so for misinformed participants. Sequential but not random retrieval order resulted in a higher proportion of correct responses for central as opposed to peripheral misinformation questions. Compliance was significantly related to misinformation effects. Delay increased participants' suggestibility, impaired memory accuracy, and produced higher confidence ratings for misinformed participants compared to controls. Findings indicate that even for a highly negative event, adults' memory is not immune to inaccuracies and suggestive influences.

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