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.
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.