Eliminating Age Differences in Children’s and Adults’ Suggestibility and Memory Conformity Effects

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Abstract

We examined whether typical developmental trends in suggestion-induced false memories (i.e., age-related decrease) could be changed. Using theoretical principles from the spontaneous false memory field, we adapted 2 often-used false memory procedures: misinformation (Experiment 1) and memory conformity (Experiment 2). In Experiment 1, 7- to 9-year-old children (n = 33) and adults (n = 39) received stories containing associatively related details. They then listened to misinformation in the form of short narratives preserving the meaning of the story. Children and adults were equally susceptible to the misinformation effect. In Experiment 2, younger (7- to 8-year-olds, n = 30) and older (11- to 12-year-olds, n = 30) children and adults (n = 30) viewed pictures containing associatively related details. They viewed these pictures in pairs. Although the pictures differed, participants believed they had viewed the same pictures. Participants had to report what they could recollect during collaborative and individual recall tests. Children and adults were equally susceptible to memory conformity effects. When correcting for response bias, adults’ false memory scores were even higher than children’s. Our results show that age trends in suggestion-induced false memories are not developmentally invariant.

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