Attributional biases and the inability to ignore retracted information
Bivens, Seneca A.
MetadataShow full item record
The purpose of the study was to explore factors that result in one type of distortion in memory. In particular, previous research has shown that people have a difficult time disregarding causal information that has later been retracted (e.g., Johnson & Seifert, 1994). The present investigation was designed to explore whether or not the nature of the experienced event (whether it is personally relevant to a person or not) influences this tendency. Participants were presented with stories about an airplane crash that was either personally relevant to participants (i.e., the plane departed from Milwaukee airport) or not personally relevant (i.e., the plane departed from Paris airport). Participants were given an initial cause for the airplane crash (engine malfunction), that was subsequently discredited in one of two ways. In the Negation Only condition, participants simply learned that the original cause was inaccurate. By contrast, in the Alternative condition, participants were also provided an alternative explanation for why the event occurred. Finally, participants were tested to see how much of their understanding of the events was influenced by the initial causal explanation. Results indicated that participants continued to rely on the initial causal explanation whether they were given a retraction or a retraction with an alternative explanation, which further supported previous research on the continued influence effect. Contrary to expectations, there was no significant effect of personal relevance on the number of inferences made. However, when participants were given a negation only, they were numerically more likely to make inferences based on the original causal explanation when the story was personally relevant. These results are discussed in the context of previous research on the continued influence effect.
False memory syndrome