Evaluating Suggestibility to Additive and Contradictory Misinformation Following Explicit Error Detection in Younger and Older Adults

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Abstract

In 2 experiments, we assessed age-related suggestibility to additive and contradictory misinformation (i.e., remembering of false details from an external source). After reading a fictional story, participants answered questions containing misleading details that were either additive (misleading details that supplemented an original event) or contradictory (errors that changed original details). On a final test, suggestibility was greater for additive than contradictory misinformation, and older adults endorsed fewer false contradictory details than younger adults. To mitigate suggestibility in Experiment 2, participants were warned about potential errors, instructed to detect errors, or instructed to detect errors after exposure to examples of additive and contradictory details. Again, suggestibility to additive misinformation was greater than contradictory, and older adults endorsed less contradictory misinformation. Only after detection instructions with misinformation examples were younger adults able to reduce contradictory misinformation effects and reduced these effects to the level of older adults. Additive misinformation however, was immune to all warning and detection instructions. Thus, older adults were less susceptible to contradictory misinformation errors, and younger adults could match this misinformation rate when warning/detection instructions were strong.

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