Do Older Adults Change Their Eyewitness Reports When Re-Questioned?

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This study examined how older adults responded to different types of pressure to change their responses when questioned a second time about their memory for a crime.


After watching a video of a crime and answering questions about remembered details, younger (18–22 years) and older adults (64–91 years) were either given negative feedback about their memory performance, were told that most people their age did poorly on the memory test (stereotype threat), or were simply asked to answer the questions again. This was done regardless of their actual accuracy, and the questions were then repeated.


Results showed that both younger and older adults changed significantly more responses following negative feedback and changed more responses on misleading than on nonleading questions. Among older adults, as age increased, accuracy decreased and rate of response change increased. People were moderately confident overall about both their correct and incorrect responses.


These results highlight the dangers of repeatedly questioning older witnesses with misleading questions and suggest that the responses that are changed may come to be remembered confidently—regardless of whether they are correct or incorrect.

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