Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Speaking Order Predicts Memory Conformity after Accounting for Exposure to Misinformation

Academic journal article Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

Speaking Order Predicts Memory Conformity after Accounting for Exposure to Misinformation

Article excerpt

Published online: 6 February 2013

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 2013

Abstract When people discuss their experiences, they can later report seeing things that they never saw, simply because they heard about those things in the discussion. One factor that may contribute to this effect is the order in which people speak; some research has investigated this issue, but it remains unclear whether a relationship exists between memory conformity and speaking order. We explored this question using data from five previous memory conformity experiments. The results provide evidence of an association between speaking order and memory conformity, such that people who spoke first in a discussion were misled less often than people who did not. These results build on previous research by demonstrating that the association could not have been caused by differences in opportunities to be misled. We could not draw conclusions about causality fromthe exploratory analyses, but ruled out several simple explanations of the results, and considered a variety of social and cognitive mechanisms that might account for the association. Further investigation will be required to tease apart the possible mechanisms that underlie the relationship between speaking order and memory conformity.

Keywords Memory . Memory conformity . Misinformation . Social influence . Eyewitness

It is now well-established that when people discuss their past experiences together, they influence each others' memories- a phenomenon known as memory conformity (Wright, Self, & Justice, 2000; for a review, see Wright, Memon, Skagerberg, & Gabbert, 2009). One curious finding that has received attention is that the order in which people speak during a conversation affects the likelihood that each will later report false memories. More specifically, the person who speaks first is much less likely to exhibit memory conformity than a person who speaks second or not at all (Gabbert, Memon, & Wright, 2006). Why? We address that question in this article.

One possibility is that the apparent effects of speaking order can be explained by differences in exposure to misinformation, rather than differences in susceptibility to misinformation (Lindsay, 2007). Put another way, people who speak first may show less memory conformity not because they are less influenced by misleading suggestions, but because they are less likely to be exposed to misleading suggestions. Another possibility is that people who speak first exert more influence on people who speak second than the other way around. Indeed, when people observe a conversation, they are more influenced by the first rather than second speaker, rating the person who speaks first as being more confident and more accurate than the second speaker-even when it is clear that speaking order is not decided by the speakers themselves (Wright & Carlucci, 2011). To date, no research (to our knowledge) has examined whether Wright and Carlucci's speaking order effects also occur when a person is actively involved in the discussion, instead of observing other speakers.

Further examination of the puzzling association between speaking order and memory conformity may contribute to a better understanding of the interpersonal source-monitoring processes underlying memory conformity (Lindsay, 2008). For instance, people might rely on an interpersonal metacognitive heuristic such as that the person who initiates a conversation is more likely to be accurate (Wright et al., 2009). If so, they should be more influenced by information provided by the first speaker than by information provided by subsequent speakers (informational influence, Deutsch & Gerard, 1955). This heuristic might come about from personal experience: We are probably more likely to initiate a discussion and share information when we are confident that the information that we remember is accurate-or, conversely, that we are reluctant to initiate a discussion when we are unsure (Allan, Midjord, Martin, & Gabbert, 2011). …

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