The effect of testing on the vulnerability to misinformation in adolescents and adults

  • Lisa Wilbers Maastricht University
Keywords: False memory, Fuzzy Trace Theory, Testing effect, Misinformation, Adolescents


False memories are a frequently recurring problem in the courtroom and therefore research on this topic in highly needed. In the present study, the effect of testing on the vulnerability to misinformation is examined in children, adolescents and adults. The main expectation was that these different age groups have different levels of susceptibility to misinformation. It was hypothesized that the testing effect influences these different levels of susceptibility to misinformation. Fuzzy Trace Theory states that witnesses extract their memories from two different levels of memory representation: gist and verbatim. On the first testing day, after viewing a video of an electrician stealing items from a client’s house, participants received gist (e.g. why do people wear trousers?) or verbatim (e.g. what kind of trousers did Eric wear?) questions. On day two, an eyewitness statement, manipulated with misleading information, was presented, after which participants received a final memory test on a verbatim level. It was found that children were more vulnerable to misinformation than adults, and that adolescents seem to be more similar to children than to adults concerning susceptibility to misinformation. Also, the testing effect was only present when no misinformation was presented. When information was influenced by misinformation, no testing effect was found. No effect was found for the difference between gist and verbatim testing.


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