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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consequences of Choice Blindness on Memory: Altered Self-Reports Cause Memory-Blindness Distortion

  • Author(s): Cochran, Kevin
  • Advisor(s): Loftus, Elizabeth F
  • et al.

Previous research on the misinformation effect has demonstrated that memory for events can be distorted by suggestive information presented after the fact. A separate line of research on choice blindness has shown that after making a choice between multiple alternatives, if people are told they chose something different from what they actually chose, they often fail to notice the discrepancy. In a methodological marriage of these two paradigms, participants first witnessed an event, and were then asked ten memory questions about what they saw. Later, their responses were presented back to them for review; half of the participants were told that these responses were their own reports from earlier, and half were told that they were responses from another subject. Importantly, three of the ten responses shown during this review were systematically altered from what the participants had originally said. At a final test, participants answered the initial memory questions a second time. Repeated measures ANOVAs revealed that viewing manipulated reports caused participants' memories to change in ways consistent with the misinformation. This effect was stronger when the misinformation was presented as "what another participant had said" than when it was presented as "what you previously said." This "memory-blindness" finding represents an important avenue for future research on the accuracy of eyewitness reports.

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