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False Recognition

 

Explanations > Theories > False Recognition

Description | Research | Example | So What? | See also | References 

 

Description

When someone asks you a question, then the words they use can have a significant effect on what you remember.

Typically when the question is specific it can have an assumptive effect, for example using the definite article 'the' as opposed to the less specific indefinite article 'a'.

This effect can happen when people want to comply with the questioner. This is known  as the acquiescence effect. This can come from such as a desire to help or a desire not to appear stupid.

Research

Loftus and Palmer (1974) showed subjects a video of a car accident, then asked them 'About how fast were the cars going when they XXX one another?', where XXX varied between 'smashed into', 'hit', collided with' or 'contacted'. A week later they were asked if they saw any broken glass. Those who had heard 'smashed' were more likely to remember that they did.

Loftus and Zanni (1975) showed a car accident video to subjects then either 'Did you see a broken headlight?' or 'Did you see the broken headlight?' Significantly more remembered seeing the broken headlight than those who saw a broken headlight.

Example

If you ask 'Did you show her the paper on Friday?' you will be more likely to get agreement than if you ask 'Did you show her a paper last week?'

So What?

Using it

When you want people to remember something or agree with you, be specific. Otherwise be vague.

Defending

When asked about a memory, think twice. Also think about your motive for answering as your first instinct directs you.

See also

False Memory Syndrome

References

Loftus and Palmer (1974)

 

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