Conforming to misinformation: an exploration of attractiveness and confidence


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Towson University. Department of Psychology


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Witness testimony is a key factor used when convicting criminals, yet these testimonies are not always completely accurate. Often times, witnesses use the time after the crime to discuss the specifics of the crime with the other co-witnesses. This post event information (PEI), when inaccurate, can lead to the distribution of misinformation among the witnesses. It is clear that misleading PEI is one of the leading causes for conformity to false memories in witnesses. The current study focuses on the effect of two social factors, confidence and attractiveness, on conformity to misinformation. Participants viewed a video of a crime taking place, followed by one of four videos of a co-witness's memory of that crime with 10 pieces of misinformation. After the completion of both videos the participants' memory was tested using a cued recall memory test. The four videos featured an actress dressed attractively or unattractively, and she spoke confidently or unconfidently. Participants conformed more and had more confidence in their answers when information was presented by an attractive witness. Additionally, participants had more accurate memories when the PEI was presented by a confident witness, they also had higher confidence in their correct answers.