Personal Needs: The Effects ones needs has on suggestibility and false memory implantation.
The purpose of this study was to determine whether one’s personal needs affects the likelihood of suggestibility and believing in false memories. This study consisted of 17 participants from a liberal arts college. Each participant completed the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS) and the NEO-Five Factor Inventory measuring five specific domains of personality. Finally, participants were individually administered a variation of the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale which uses a narrative story followed by free recall, interrogative questioning and free recall again, to determine if the participant is likely to be suggestible or implant false memories into a story. The results found no significant difference regarding the factors of the NEO-Five Factor Inventory when it was correlated with the answers of the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale. However, Deference, Exhibition and Intraception each demonstrated significant correlation to the number of suggestible questions the participation answered incorrectly. Findings are discussed in the context of the influence of personal needs on suggestibility.
False memory refers to a wide range of phenomena. False memories either surface spontaneously, arising as a result of an inference that an event may have happened. Another variation of false memories is accompanied by either intentional or unintentional implantation of information. These people report that an event actually happened in their lives when, in reality, the event was merely suggested to them (Reyna & Lloyd, 1997).
In most of the literature regarding false memory, there is a focus on the difference between "true" and "false" memories and the deciding factor separating the two. So-called "true" memories consist of the remembering of events as they actually occurred, without any addition of suggestion or embellishment (Reyna & Lloyd, 1997). In order to be a "true" memory, all facts must be verified. In contrast, "false" memories tend to include experiences that go beyond direct experiences. Interpretation and inference are generally included. Sometimes these interpretations contradict the actual experience, creating a new, very different experience based on notions or suggestions (Reyna & Lloyd, 1997).
Many studies have been conducted testing the above information. One of these studies conducted by Elizabeth Loftus (1979), participants were shown slides of a car accident in which a stop sign played a key role. In a follow up interview, some of the participants were told that the stop sign they thought they saw was actually a yield sign. After the interview, they were given a yes-no recognition test asking them if there was a yield sign involved. The majority of participants answered "yes". Even when they were forced to choose between a yield sign and a stop sign, the misled participants continued to choose the yield sign.
To further the investigation into "true" and "false" memories, Elizabeth Loftus and Jacqueline E. Pickrell (personal communication, March 12, 2000) wanted to try and plant a specific memory of being lost in a shopping mall or large department store into the minds of participants between the ages of 18-53. The event was supposed to have happened when they were around the age of five. A booklet was prepared containing one-paragraph stories about three "true", actual events that happened to the participant (as indicated by a sibling or other family member) as well as the one "false" story about the mall or store.
The results found that participants recalled about 49 of the 72 true events (68 percent) after the initial reading of the true events and also in the two follow up interviews. Regarding the false event, of the 24 participants, seven (29 percent) of them remembered at least part of the false event after the initial reading and six of them (25 percent) claimed they remembered the false event after the two follow up interviews. For the most part, participants used more words to describe the events that were "true" and found these "true" memories to be clearer to them (Loftus, 1999).
The meaning of this lost in the mall study was to prove that it is very possible that this implantation mechanism can easily be used in real-world settings. People remember their past in very different ways. They can also be persuaded into remembering entire false events that never actually occurred. The study performed by Loftus and Pickrell (1995) and Loftus (1999) led to many other, similar studies trying to decipher why people believe in "false" events when those events are paired with other, "true", events.
Suggestibility is described as the degree to which encoding, storing, retrieving and reporting of events may be influenced by a range of social and psychological factors (Ceci & Bruck, 1993). Gisli Gudjonsson was highly interested in the world of suggestibility. Gudjonsson (1987) created two parallel research and clinical tools to assess an individual’s response to leading questions. He titled the tests Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale Form 1 (GSS 1) and the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale Form 2 (GSS 2). The difference between the GSS1 and the GSS2 is simply the content contained in the narrative story. Gudjonsson found that two suggestibility types emerged in the results of the GSS1 and the GSS2: (1) the extent to which the participant would ‘yield’ to leading questions; (2) the extent to which participants ‘shift’ their replies once interpersonal pressure is applied. The yield/shift answers refer to the degree to which the participant changes his/her answers following the period of negative feedback.
To demonstrate the concept of the GSS1 and the GSS2, Gudjonsson (1987) tested 90 participants ranging in age from 19-42. His participants were gathered from hospital staff and forensic patients and clients referred by court mandates. He separated the participants into three groups. The procedure for group one and two were identical, having the two parallel forms of the scale administered within the same session.
The procedure for these groups started out with the story being read aloud to each participant individually. Participants were asked to give free recall immediately. A 50-minute time delay occurred where participants filled out questionnaires not relevant to the study. Delayed recall of the story was then given, and the participants were asked 20 questions related to the story. The participants then received negative feedback, and asked the same 20 questions again. The last step in administering the step was one final recall. The procedure for group three was the same except instead of a 50-minute delay; they had a one-week to eight-month delay.
The results found that the delay did not cause any significant difference between the groups. The results on the two forms of the test for all three groups were very similar. A possible reason for this similarity may be that the story read was biased in some way. Age is another possible reason for the similarity. Gudjonsson’s study did not include children and covered a wide range of age. A more age appropriate study must be reviewed.
When looking at false memory and suggestibility, the literature available does not focus on internal personality factors possibly causing a person to be more or less likely to belief in false information. In this study, personal needs and personality types will be explored to see if there is any type of correlation between them.
The participants involved in this study were 17 students from the general
of Saint Anselm College, a small, Catholic, Liberal Arts school in the northeast. There were eleven females and seven males ranging in age from 18 to 23. The mean age was 20.24 with a standard deviation of 1.39.
All participants were treated in accordance to the American Psychological Association’s standards of ethical treatment of participants in research studies. The participants all signed a consent form and were given a debriefing form at the conclusion of the research experiment. The participants were also informed of their ability, at any time during the study, to terminate further participation.
Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS). The Edwards Personal Preference
Schedule questionnaire is a self-administered test, consisting of 225 questions,
with A/B answers, elapsing about 40-50 minutes. It is aimed at providing
a measure of 15 personality variables. The EPPS also
contains a measure of test consistency and profile stability. An
attempt is made to decrease the influence of social desirability in answers
given. To do this the two possible selections are of equal desirability
and are aimed at different personality traits. For example, the first
question on the EPPS asks for the participant to pick either:
I like to help my friends when they are in trouble or B) I like
to do my very best in whatever I undertake (Edwards, 1959). Both
of these statements are appealing to most people, and the answer is thus,
NEO-Five Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI). The NEO-FFI is a 60-item questionnaire with 12-item scales measuring each of the five major personality domains: Neuroticism, Extraversion, Openness, Agreeableness, and Conscientiousness. The test is a self-administered and each item is scored on a 0-5-point basis. The participants respond to each statement by deciding if the statement given represents their opinion. There are five levels, or degrees, in which they may reply: SD= Strongly Disagree; D= Disagree; N= Neutral; A= Agree; and SA= Strongly Agree. Reliability, validity and consistency are high for the NEO-FFI. A sixth grade reading level is required for completing the NEO-FFI. The estimated length of time for completing the NEO-FFI is 10-15 minutes (Costa & McCrae, 1992).
Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale Form 2 (GSS2). The participants in this study were given a modified version of the GSS2 based on a new scoring system created by the experimenter. The GSS2 is a parallel form of the GSS1. The GSS1 was developed to assess how people respond to leading questions followed by negative feedback when asked to engage in free recall. The only difference between the GSS1 and the GSS2 was the content of the narrative story. The GSS2 contained a narrative story about a young boy who’s brakes broke on his bicycle. The story contained 40 distinct ideas. Participants were asked to engage in free recall after the story was read. Each idea recalled was worth one point. They were then asked 20 questions, 15 of them were loaded with misleading suggestions and 5 of them were "true", non-misleading questions (Gudjonsson, 1987). The modification of the GSS2 for this study came into play after the 20 questions were asked.
In this study, all 17 participants were administered the EPPS and the NEO-FFI,
both being self-administered tests. The participants were individually
taken aside and administered the GSS2 (modified version). The reason
for the individual questioning was that participants needed to be read
the story orally, and could not be asked the questions in a group.
The participants were asked to listen carefully to the story the researcher
was going to read aloud. They were also informed that when the researcher
was done with the story, they were going to be asked to tell the researcher
all that they remembered. When participants completed their free
recalling, they then were asked the 20 questions regarding the story.
They were finally asked to engage in free recall again. Some participants
(3 people) were given course bonus points for their participation in this
study, but a majority (14 people) of them took the tests free of any obligations.
The results of this study found that there was no significant difference regarding the factors of the NEO-Five Factor Inventory when it was correlated with the answers of the Gudjonsson Suggestibility scale on the levels of suggestibility or the numbers of false memories. THere were, however, significant differences regarding three of the 15 domains of the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule. Deference, exhibition and intraception all had a significant difference when correlated to the number of suggestible questions the participant answered correctly.
After reviewing all of the literature regarding false memory and suggestibility much can be said about the relationship the two have with personal needs, specifically, and personality, more narrowly. Correlational designs were used to examine if false memory and suggestiblity were effected by the personal needs or personality type of the participant. A significant difference was found when comparing deference, exhibition, and intraception, three facets of the Edwards Personal Preference Schedule (EPPS), comparatively to the number of suggestible questions the participants answered correctly. There was an extremely high significance regarding deference in comparison to the number of suggestible questions answered correctly. A correct answer to a suggestible question means that the participant is falsely implanting the idea that the researcher is merely suggesting happened, yet the participant believes it really did happen.
The reason it is so amazing that deference, out of all fifteen of the domains of the EPPS, was the most significant because deference, by definition, means to feel the need to please authority. If, in the case of an interviewing session of a social worker with a possible sexual abuse victim, the child being interviewed is high in the need for deference, the child is going to be more likely to say whatever necessary to please the social worker (A.K.A. the person in authority.
Future studies should examine the effects deference has on possible sexual abuse victims and possibly victims of other heinous crimes as well. This was not possible for this study because the population that would be needed was not available. Possibly, in the future, the results of this study may make the interviewing techniques used by professionals more effective and less biased.
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