Age Differences in Eyewitness Memory for a Realistic Event

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Abstract

Objectives.

To better understand the effects of misinformation on eyewitnesses of different ages, older and younger adults experienced an event under intentional and incidental learning conditions in a naturalistic experiment using multiple memory tests.

Method.

Following exposure to the event, which was a brief interruption of a group testing session, participants completed several memory tests. For half of the participants, misinformation was embedded in the first cued recall test. On subsequent free recall and cued recall tests, basic scores and misinformation-based memory errors were examined.

Results.

As expected, younger adults had higher recall scores than older adults. Older and younger adults made the same number of misinformation errors in free recall and in cued recall with intentional learning. However, in the incidental condition, younger adults made more misinformation errors likely due to the information processing strategies they employed after incidental learning.

Discussion.

Misinformation effects were quite strong, even with a realistic scene and intentional learning. Older adult suggestibility was no worse than that of younger adults. When misinformation was combined with incidental learning, younger adults may have used strategic processing to encode misinformation to their detriment.

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