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Psychon Bull Rev. 2008 Dec;15(6):1185-9. doi: 10.3758/PBR.15.6.1185.

That's the man who did it, or was it a woman? Actor similarity and binding errors in event memory.

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Department of Psychology, Florida Atlantic University, Jupiter, FL 33458, USA.


Mistakes in eyewitness identification frequently occur when incorrect associations are made between a familiar person and the actions of another person. The present research demonstrates that actors do not need to be similar in appearance for such conjunction errors to occur. The actors can, in fact, be very different in appearance, even of different sexes. Participants attempted to remember a series of brief everyday events, each involving an actor performing an action. Increases in actor similarity led to increases in conjunction errors in which participants incorrectly associated a familiar actor with a familiar action that was actually performed by someone else, but conjunction errors frequently occurred even when the familiar actor was of a different sex than the original actor, arguing against the hypothesis that these conjunction errors are due solely to mistaken identity.

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