creation combines the knowledge of an individual with the subject matter
of a suggestion in a way that makes them inseparable (Loftus, 1997).
One type of false memory creation that does not involve implanting entirely
false memories into an individual's mind is often termed the misinformation
paradigm which was first used by Elizabeth Loftus (1975) in a study that
examined suggestibility in adults. In the misinformation paradigm,
participants watch a short film depicting an event and subsequently read
an account of the event that happened in the film. Half of the participants
make up a control group that receive an accurate description of the event,
whereas the other half of the participants, the experimental group, receive
an account of the event that includes some information that was not present
in the film they viewed (i.e., misinformation). Finally, an information
recognition test is given to all participants.
studies have been conducted to examine individual differences in false
memories. One such study was conducted by Scullin and Hembrooke (1997)
to detect differences in suggestibility level between those who are the
most accepting of false memories and those who are the least accepting.
The authors utilized the Gudjonsson Suggestibility Scale (Gudjonsson, 1984)
in their study and discovered that the higher level of suggestibility a
participant had, the more accepting of false memories they were.
the literature does not show any studies examining the relationship between
suggestibility and gender, however, it does show many studies examining
the relationship between persuasibility/conformity level (which relate
to suggestibility) and gender that have been conducted in the past (e.g.,
Eagly, 1978). All of these studies have found that females are generally
more persuasible/conforming than males.
The goals of the current study were to examine the relationship between
misinformation and the number of items one incorrectly identifies on an
information recognition test, the relationship between suggestibility and
one's tendency to accept misinformation as correct, the relationship between
gender and suggestibility, and the relationship between gender and the
tendency to accept misinformation as correct.
consisted of 18 participants (11 female, 7 male) with a mean age of 19
years old who were selected from the department research pool at Saint
Anselm college. This study utilized the Gudjonsson Suggestibility
Scale (Form 2; GSS; Gudjonsson, 1987). Scores on this scale were
determined by the number of answers in which an individual changed from
a correct answer in the first trial to an incorrect answer in the second
trial on suggestive questions. The other instrument utilized in this
study was the misinformation paradigm first described by Elizabeth Loftus
(1975). A misinformation paradigm was created for this study utilizing
a video of a robbery (Donahue, 2000). The paradigm was scored in
terms of the number of incorrect answers one scored on the information
recognition test at the conclusion of the misinformation paradigm.
in the misinformation (i.e., experimental) condition of the misinformation
paradigm had a significantly greater number of incorrect answers on the
information recognition test than did participants in the correct information
(i.e., control) condition of the paradigm. Results of this study
also suggest that suggestibility is related to the number of incorrect
answers an individual gives on an information recognition test in the misinformation
paradigm, in that within the misinformation group, 75% of those individuals
considered highly suggestible (i.e., changed their answer from correct
to incorrect at least twice on the GSS), also answered at least two questions
incorrectly on the information recognition test. Therefore, the findings
of this study suggest that both the misinformation paradigm and the GSS
may be used to identify the same individuals. Finally, the results
of this study pointed in the predicted direction for gender differences
(i.e., females changed their answer from incorrect to correct more times
of this study suggest that eyewitness testimony in the judicial system
should be carefully considered; especially since the individual recalling
the memory is not aware that his or her recall may be inaccurate.
Therefore, if possible, the testimony of more than one individual is at
the very least appropriate, if not necessary, in all court cases using
eyewitness testimony. Any time it is necessary for an individual
to recall an event in which enough time has passed for other information
to be received by that individual, there is the potential for the memory
of that event to be altered. This can affect all aspects of society,
not just the legal aspects, although it may have potentially more harmful
effects within the legal system.
This web site contains all the articles and books written by Elizabeth
Loftus on the topic of memories
(including information on the misinformation paradigm).
This web site offers pointers to key resources about false memories.
The site also allows one to e-mail the
author of the page and receive articles written pertaining to false memories.
Finally, this site offers links to recent relevant articles.
Scales This web site gives a brief overview of the Gudjonsson
Suggestibility Scale (GSS), the GSS Form 2 and
the Gudjonsson Compliance Scale (GSC).
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