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Memory. 2008 Feb;16(2):137-48. doi: 10.1080/09658210701836174.

Changing the criterion for memory conformity in free recall and recognition.

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Psychology Department, University of Sussex, Falmer, UK.


People's responses during memory studies are affected by what other people say. This memory conformity effect has been shown in both free recall and recognition. Here we examine whether accurate, inaccurate, and suggested answers are affected similarly when the response criterion is varied. In the first study, participants saw four pictures of detailed scenes and then discussed the content of these scenes with another participant who saw the same scenes, but with a couple of details changed. Participants were either told to recall everything they could and not to worry about making mistakes (lenient), or only to recall items if they were sure that they were accurate (strict). The strict instructions reduced the amount of inaccurate information reported that the other person suggested, but also reduced the number of accurate details recalled. In the second study, participants were shown a large set of faces and then their memory recognition was tested with a confederate on these and fillers. Here also, the criterion manipulation shifted both accurate and inaccurate responses, and those suggested by the confederate. The results are largely consistent with a shift in response criterion affecting accurate, inaccurate, and suggested information. In addition we varied the level of secrecy in the participants' responses. The effects of secrecy were complex and depended on the level of response criterion. Implications for interviewing eyewitnesses and line-ups are discussed.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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