Misinformation Can Influence Memory for Recently Experienced, Highly Stressful Events
International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, Vol. 36, 2013, pp. 11-17
8 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2013
Date Written: August 15, 2013
A large body of research has demonstrated that exposure to misinformation can lead to distortions in human memory for genuinely experienced objects or people. The current study examined whether misinformation could affect memory for a recently experienced, personally relevant, highly stressful event. In the present study we assessed the impact of misinformation on memory in over 800 military personnel confined in the stressful, mock POW camp phase of Survival School training. Misinformation introduced after the negatively affected memory for the details of the event (such as the presence of glasses or weapons), and also affected the accuracy of identification of an aggressive interrogator. In some conditions more than half of the subjects exposed to a misleading photograph falsely identified a different individual as their interrogator after the interrogation was over. These findings demonstrate that memories for stressful events are highly vulnerable to modification by exposure to misinformation, even in individuals whose level of training and experience might be thought to render them relatively immune to such influences.
Keywords: False memory, Military, Cognition, Survival School, Eyewitness recall, Interrogation
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