Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Order Effects in Collaborative Memory Contamination? Comment on Gabbert, Memon, and Wright (2006)

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Order Effects in Collaborative Memory Contamination? Comment on Gabbert, Memon, and Wright (2006)

Article excerpt

Gabbert, Memon, and Wright (2006) claimed evidence of an order effect in collaborative memory contamination, in which the collaborator who first spoke of a particular detail was more influential. The Gabbert et al. findings are ambiguous in this regard, because their analyses collapsed across (1) cases in which both collaborators reported the detail they had witnessed and (2) cases in which only one of the collaborators mentioned the detail s/he had mentioned. The latter cases do not evidence an order effect per se.

Gabbert, Memon, and Wright (2006) reported two studies in which pairs of participants who had viewed subtly different versions of a slide show collaborated on answering questions about the slides and later individually answered questions about them. This fine article is a valuable contribution to the literature on collaborative memory contamination, but I am puzzled by one aspect of their report. Specifically, Gabbert et al. emphasized that witnesses who mentioned a particular critical detail first during collaboration were more likely to influence other witnesses's final memory reports. I believe that interpretation of that finding is problematic, as explained below.

Consider participant P, who witnessed critical slide X, and whose collaborator participant Q witnessed corresponding critical slide X'. Excluding guessing, P can report X' on the final test only if Q mentioned X' during collaboration. The finding in question is that P was more likely to report X' on the final test if Q described X' first during collaboration. The problem arises from the fact that there were two qualitatively different kinds of cases in which Q did not describe X' first during collaboration: One in which Q described X' second (i.e., after P had described X) and one in which Q did not describe X' at all. In the latter sort of case, Gabbert et al.'s "order effect" reduces to P being more likely to report X' if Q mentioned X' than if Q did not mention X'. …

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