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Memory Self-Efficacy is Malleable, but Does it Influence Subsequent Performance on Memory Tasks Involving Suggestion?


Within legal settings, the confidence that witnesses express in a specific reported memory is an important piece of information, and one that has been the subject of extensive study. In contrast, the confidence that people have in their memory ability prior to witnessing or recalling an event has not received much attention. Work within the self-efficacy literature has demonstrated that beliefs about one’s abilities causally influence one’s subsequent performance on tasks that involve those abilities. Within a memory context, however, the causal link between self-efficacy and performance has not been well established. Memory studies have reported a positive correlation between memory self-efficacy (MSE) and performance, but published experimental manipulations of MSE are rare, and those that have been conducted have not provided a conclusive answer to the question of whether manipulating MSE leads to differences in memory performance. Furthermore, it is an open question whether MSE can affect a particular kind of memory performance, namely, the ability to resist the distortive influences of suggestion. The experiments herein seek to address this gap in the literature. In Experiment 1 we experimentally manipulated witnesses’ MSE prior to PEI exposure and examined subsequent memory performance. Experiment 2 was similar, except that MSE was manipulated prior to event encoding. Experiment 3 manipulated MSE and then assessed memory performance on a different type of memory task: a variation of the imagination inflation procedure that involved suggestion. Aspects of the two suggestive memory tasks differed from each other such that differential relationships between MSE and performance were hypothesized; experimentally raising MSE was expected to lead to a reduced likelihood of false memory development within the misinformation paradigm, but it was expected to lead to an increased likelihood of false memory formation using the suggestive imagination inflation procedure. These differences were predicted due to the two tasks’ differential relationship between effort and performance. Overall, however, we did not find that the MSE manipulation influenced performance on the misinformation task (Experiments 1 and 2). There was some indication that MSE influenced performance on the suggestive imagination inflation procedure (Experiment 3), but the mechanism is not yet well understood.

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