Imagine that you are sitting in your apartment complex and it’s a little bit later at night. You can see into the neighbor’s window because they never close their shades. They are elderly and usually just sit and watch television. Tonight you notice that there is someone wandering around outside dressed in all black, and suddenly break into that neighbors house. You see them hit the person inside and steal items from their home. When the cops show up, you have to tell the story since you witnessed everything that happened and the neighbor was struck so doesn’t remember everything as clear. You tell your story to them that night and then ask if you can go to court later to testify as a witness. Later in the month, they want you to tell what you saw in court after they found the man who broke in. You tell your story but then the stories don’t match up because your story that you can recall now is different and has changed from the original story when you witnessed the crime right away. This is a prime example of the misinformation effect.

The misinformation effect is “a phenomenon which occurs when exposure to new information (including one’s own thoughts) after witnessing an event that can lead people to believe that they have seen or experienced something they never did” (Ševelj & Gedye, 2014). This is common in everyday life, and happened for a lot of different events. It can be something bad such as a car accident or robbery to a concert or party. A lot of people add in details or take out details when they recall information. Sometimes, this is used for media purposes, or friends, to make a story sound better, more detailed, more intriguing. The misinformation effect can occur in three stages:

The acquisition stage – this is where the original event is perceived. The retention stage – the time between a piece of information being perceived residing in memory and the recalled. The retrieval stage – the time daring which the information required is recalled (Ševelj & Gedye, 2014).

An everyday life example of these stages in action is that my friends recently were following a car that had just committed a hit and run. My friends decided to follow them, he was swerving and speeding and ended up crashing into a pole or stop sign. When the cops showed up, they told them what they had saw the guy do as soon as the accident happened (acquisition stage). A month of so later, they got a subpoena to come into the courts to testify as a witness of what they did. They had to go to court and recall what they had saw a month ago (retention stage). When they recalled the information, there was things left out and things added in – not because they wanted it to sound better for the court, but because it had been a month that they hadn’t thought about the accident and was trying to recall what they thought happened to the best of their ability (retrieval stage).

Misinformation effect can go together with the false memory effect. False memories are “a memory of an event that did not actually occur” (Kowalczyk, 2015). This can be compared with the misinformation effect because although the misinformation effect is just altering the information that is being recalled about an event, false memory can be added or forgotten information during a recall. Kowalczyk, 2015 states “memory is extremely moldable and malleable.” While most people are good at recalling the accurate information about an event, everyone creates and alters information in their memory from time to time.






Works Cited


Kowalczyk, D. (2015). False Memories in Psychology: Formation & Definition. Web.      <http://study.com/academy/lesson/false-memories-in-psychology-



Ševelj, M., & Gedye, L. (2014, November 12). Misinformation Effect. Web.



1 thought on “Misinformation

  1. krb5592

    Hi Zoe!
    You blog was a great example of the misinformation effect. I understood that people get information mixed up with actual facts and what they know to be true but isn’t. This summer I had jury duty and it was really evident with one witness who could not get her information straight. She did change stories, at first she witnessed the perpetrator commit the crime and could pick him out from the police line up, then she did not remember what he looked liked because he looked familiar to someone that she already knew. She was imagining things and details that was not apart of the crime scene, or maybe she was not imagining. She was so eager to help with the investigation that she added in details from her memory that did not exist, she was creating false memories. It was really difficult to do my job because this witness, who was less than 50 feet away from the crime, seen the whole incident unfold but could not provide us with a clear witness testimony. We learned from our textbook to have a strong witness testify in court there is a certain way for the cops to interview and gather information so as to not confuse the witness or pressure the witness which can obstruct their memory. Obviously, the police department dropped the ball which made my job and the other members of the jury jobs difficult.

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