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What happens after debriefing? The effectiveness and benefits of postexperimental debriefing


After participating in an experiment, people are routinely debriefed. How effective is debriefing when the experiments involve deception, as occurs in studies of misinformation and memory? We conducted two studies addressing this question. In Study 1, participants (N = 373) watched a video, were exposed to misinformation or not, and completed a memory test. Participants were either debriefed or not and then were interviewed approximately one week later. Results revealed that, after debriefing, some participants continued to endorse misinformation. Notably, however, debriefing had positive effects; participants exposed to misinformation reported learning significantly more from their study participation than control participants. In Study 2 (N = 439), we developed and tested a novel, enhanced debriefing. The enhanced debriefing included more information about the presence of misinformation in the study and how memory errors occur. This enhanced debriefing outperformed typical debriefing. Specifically, when the enhanced debriefing explicitly named and described the misinformation, the misinformation effect postdebriefing was eliminated. Enhanced debriefing also resulted in a more positive participant experience than typical debriefing. These results have implications for the design and use of debriefing in deception studies.

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