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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Social Contagion of Correct and Incorrect Information in Memory

  • Author(s): Rush, Ryan Allen
  • Advisor(s): Clark, Steven E
  • et al.

Collaborative memory research has focused on the negative effects of group remembering, specifically emphasizing how collaborative memory can be worse than individual memory. Previous research has shown that collaboration can impair memory by limiting group output through retrieval disruption (Basden, Basden, Bryner & Thomas, 1997), by altering one's memory through socially induced forgetting (Coman, Manier, & Hirst, 2009), and through the social transmission of contagious errors (Roediger, Meade, & Bergman, 2000). The current dissertation includes three experiments designed to examine the effect that discussion has on subsequent individual memory reports. Experiment 1 systematically examines the transmission and acceptance of correct versus incorrect information within the specific context of a social contagion memory paradigm developed by Roediger et al. (2000). Experiment 2 examines the differential effects of social contagion when the overall amount of recalled information varies across cued and non-cued recall tasks (Tulving & Pearlstone, 1966). Experiment 3 examines how reconstructive memory processes may produce schema-consistent memory errors in recall, within the context of a social contagion memory paradigm using DRM stimuli (Deese, 1959; Roediger & McDermott, 1995). Consistent across all three experiments, pairs of participants recalled items from a set of stimulus materials, discussed their recall with each other, and then recalled the items again individually. The current research provides strong evidence that there is more to collaboration than just the transmission of errors. Overall, participants were exposed to more correct than incorrect information during discussion, even though exposure information was less accurate than each participants' initial recall. Participants incorporated more correct than incorrect exposure items into a later memory report, suggesting that people can distinguish correct information from incorrect information. However, there was little to no change in accuracy following discussion. Within each pair of participants who discussed, recall accuracy increased from initial to final recall for the initially less accurate participant and decreased for the initially more accurate participant. This suggests that during discussion there may be a redistribution of accuracy between participants.

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