Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Acceptance and Confidence of Central and Peripheral Misinformation

Academic journal article The Spanish Journal of Psychology

Acceptance and Confidence of Central and Peripheral Misinformation

Article excerpt

We examined the memory for central and peripheral information concerning a crime and the acceptance of false information. We also studied eyewitnesses' confidence in their memory. Participants were shown a video depicting a bank robbery and a questionnaire was used to introduce false central and peripheral information. The next day the participants completed a recognition task in which they rated the confidence of their responses. Performance was better for central information and participants registered more false alarms for peripheral contents. The cognitive system's limited attentional capacity and the greater information capacity of central elements may facilitate processing the more important information. The presentation of misinformation seriously impaired eyewitness memory by prompting a more lenient response criterion. Participants were more confident with central than with peripheral information. Eyewitness memory is easily distorted in peripheral aspects but it is more difficult to make mistakes with central information. However, when false information is introduced, errors in central information can be accompanied by high confidence, thus rendering them credible and legally serious.

Keywords: eyewitness memory, false memories, misinformation paradigm, central and peripheral information, confidence.

Estudiamos la aceptación de información falsa y la memoria de contenidos centrales y periféricos sobre un crimen. Además, también nos interesamos por la confianza que los testigos tienen en su memoria. Los participantes vieron un vídeo sobre un robo a un banco, inmediatamente después completaron un cuestionario con preguntas en las que se introdujo información falsa sobre contenidos centrales y periféricos y, un día después, completaron una prueba de reconocimiento en la que también indicaron su confianza en la respuesta. El rendimiento fue mejor con contenidos centrales y hubo más falsas alarmas con periféricos. Este resultado puede explicarse a partir de la limitada capacidad atencional del sistema cognitivo y de la mayor capacidad informativa de los contenidos centrales, que puede promover su procesamiento preferencial. La presentación de información falsa empeoró el testimonio al provocar un criterio de respuesta más laxo y la confianza fue mayor ante contenidos centrales que periféricos. Se concluye que es fácil alterar la memoria de un testigo sobre aspectos periféricos, pero es más difícil con aspectos centrales. Sin embargo, cuando se presenta información falsa, los errores con información central pueden evaluarse con confianza alta, lo que los haría potencialmente creíbles y peligrosos en el sistema judicial.

Palabras clave: memoria de testigos, falsas memorias, paradigma de la información engañosa, información central y periférica, confianza.

(ProQuest: ... denotes formulae omitted.)

Eyewitness testimony may contain different types of information, although not all of them are equally important from a legal perspective. One way to classify information type is to distinguish between central information, which includes actions and details essential to an event, and peripheral information, irrelevant to or removed in time and space from the main action (Christianson, 1992a). Central information clearly plays a more prominent role in reconstructing events, although the importance of peripheral information should not be underestimated. Judges and juries base eyewitness credibility, among other things, on the amount of details included in a declaration, even if they are insignificant or not directly related to the event (Bell & Loftus, 1988, 1989).

In addition, central and peripheral contents are not remembered equally. The divergence between the two has mainly been studied in connection with the emotional activation of a situation (for review, see Christianson, 1992a). The most common outcome seen in studies of this type is that when dealing with central information memory is better for emotional than for neutral situations, while peripheral information is more readily remembered in neutral than in emotional situations (Brown, 2003; Burke, Heuer, & Reisberg, 1992; Christianson & Loftus, 1990, 1991; Heuer & Reisberg, 1990). …

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