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Mem Cognit. 1989 Sep;17(5):607-16.

Creating new memories that are quickly accessed and confidently held.


In two experiments involving a total of 542 subjects, a series of slides depicting a burglary was shown. After the initial event, subjects were exposed to one or more narratives about the event that contained some misinformation or neutral information about four critical details. Finally, subjects were tested on their memories of what they saw, and their reaction times and confidence levels were measured. When subjects took a standard test in which the misinformation item was a possible response option, they responded very quickly and confidently when making this incorrect choice. Misled subjects responded as quickly and confidently to these "unreal" memories as they did to their genuine memories. It does not seem, then, that the misinformation effect arises from a large proportion of subjects who must resolve a conflict between two memories when they are tested, a conflict that would be expected to take time. When subjects took a modified test in which the misinformation item was not a possible response, misled subjects were as accurate as were controls, but they responded more slowly, regardless of whether they ultimately chose the right or wrong option. These findings indicate that misinformation does introduce some form of interference not detected by a simple test of accuracy.

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