Investigating the Social Processes Underlying Memory Conformity 

Paterson, H. M. (University of Sydney), Reddy, N. (University of Sydney) 

Eyewitnesses often play a critical role in criminal investigations and trials; however, research consistently shows that eyewitness memory is fallible. This is particularly true when witnesses contaminate one another’s memories for the event, a phenomenon known as “memory conformity”. The current study examined how the source of co-witness information (direct or indirect) and normative influence (emphasising the social costs of disagreeing with co-witnesses) affect memory conformity. 119 participants viewed a crime video before encountering co-witness information about the video directly (through co-witness discussion) or indirectly (by reading a co-witness statement). Participants were then asked to individually recall information about the video, and were either told that their co-witness would be reading their recall response (normative influence) or not (control). As predicted, the statement group reported more misinformation resistance than the discussion group, and normative influence encouraged greater misinformation acceptance. Contrary to expectations, the discussion group did not report more misinformation acceptance than the statement group. Importantly, the predicted interaction between normative influence and co-witness information was significant, such that normative influence significantly increased the amount of misinformation reported by the discussion group but not the statement group. The practical and theoretical implications of the study’s findings are discussed. 

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Memory Research Symposium