Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Collaborative Recall of Eyewitness Event Increases Misinformation Effect at 1 Week

Academic journal article North American Journal of Psychology

Collaborative Recall of Eyewitness Event Increases Misinformation Effect at 1 Week

Article excerpt

That leading questions (e.g. Loftus, 1975; Loftus & Palmer, 1974) and narrative accounts (e.g. Gabbert, Memon, Allan, & Wright, 2004; Searcy, Bartlett, & Memon, 2000; Wright & Stroud, 1998) can change episodic memories and thereby affect responses given by witnesses immediately and during subsequent sessions is well established (see Loftus, 2005, for review). Misinformation can be introduced in several ways, but live interactions with a co-witness are especially harmful.

Witnesses frequently discuss events prior to being questioned (Skagerberg & Wright, 2008) and such interactions can affect eyewitness reports. Discussing an event with a co-witness increases the amount of correct and incorrect information reported about the witnessed event (Paterson & Kemp, 2006; Wright, Gabbert, Memon, & London, 2008), and information gained from another witness can lead a person to insist that a suspect is guilty of a crime they themselves did not witness (Gabbert, Memon, & Allan, 2003). Several studies have shown that co-witness discussion produces larger misinformation effects than other sources (Allan & Gabbert, 2008; Gabbert et al., 2004; Paterson & Kemp, 2006). For example, Paterson and Kemp found misleading post event information (PEI) presented through a co-witness discussion led to larger misinformation effects than leading questions, a newspaper report on the witnessed event, or a video showing a discussion between two other co-witnesses.

In addition to talking with each other about what they have seen, witnesses may also be questioned by a third party, such as a member of the news media, leading to collaborative recall of the event. Although similar to co-witness discussion in that witnesses share their accounts of the event, collaborative recall situations may require the witnesses to affirm each other's comments, either explicitly or through implied affirmation by silence. Although many of the issues discussed below can apply to both co-witness discussion and collaborative recall, they may differ in relative weight of importance across situations.

Two broad explanations for why witnesses seem to influence each other's memory for an event can be categorized as normative influence and informational influence. Normative influence is defined as weighing the costs of disagreeing against the costs of being wrong (Wright, Memon, Skagerberg, & Gabbert, 2009). For example, if a family member misrepresents some details when discussing a story and the details are not very important, then the cost of memory error is low. In addition, disagreeing with the family member about this story might be considered rude, which means the social cost of disagreeing is high. The tendency to nod and agree with what the other person suggested without arguing the details is an example of the effects of normative influence. In addition, when engaging in collaborative recall witnesses may be more likely to withhold details that they are less confident about to avoid the embarrassment of mentioning something other witnesses might scoff at; social expectations may cause people to withhold risky ideas (Collaros & Anderson, 1969; Diehl & Stroebe, 1987).

Informational influence is defined as weighing the likelihood of another person being correct with the likelihood of oneself being correct. If the other witness had a better view, has a better memory in general, or is more confident, then a person is more likely to believe the other person's memory is correct (Wright et al., 2009). Allan and Gabbert (2008) found that the confidence expressed by the co-witness affected conformity to errant, but not accurate PEI. Wright et al. (2009) explained that participants tended to trust people who seem more confident and competent.

Both normative influence and informational influence can be seen as explicit effects based on social interaction; the witnesses may choose to go along with someone else's account because they do not feel that disagreeing is worth it or they may believe the other person's account to be better than their own. …

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