The article “Memory Blindness: Altered Memory Reports Lead to Distortion in Eyewitness Memory” by Cochran et al. investigates the concept of choice blindness among people. The concept refers to the likelihood that people will be misinformed, especially concerning their self -reported alternatives. Cochran et al.’s study take an experimental approach, which involves exposing participants to slideshows that depict scenes of crime. The participants either give an account of their episodic particulars or name a supposed individual from an assembly (Cochran et al. 717). The research makes an important finding concerning crime eyewitness’ memory. Indeed, the research indicates that the participants’ memories were distorted to the extent that one could not detect any misinformation. While reviewing past literature on the subject, the authors question whether explanations are given by people on sources, choices and the reason for their memories depend on the existing inferences acquired from the available evidence or they simply depend on the true original.
The research seeks to answer two main questions. First, it questions the capacity of people to detect various changes concerning memories introduced to them previously. The second question is whether changes made in people’s memories influence what they ultimately remember. The researchers hypothesize that misleading person when it comes to their recollection dossiers may result in a moderate misinformation impact (Cochran et al. 719). In the context of past researches reviewed by the authors, the study is imperative since it seeks to address the issue of whether choice blindness may present long-term implications on observers’ memories similar to how it affects individuals’ thoughts. In case the implications are long-lasting, eyewitnesses’ first accounts would then have to be thoroughly investigated to ensure that such spectators do not undergo memory manipulations in their future recollection of reports.
The research is experimental in its design. It samples students from Southern California University. The study’s number of participants was established based on an earlier incident with research on the propaganda impact (Cochran et al. 719). The research is divided into two experiments. In experiment 1, which has a sample size of 165 participants, two conditions are studied. The members are given some unreliable adaptation of their private memory details. The reports are given in a manner that they resemble the actual accounts that each participant had previously given. In the second situation, the fallacious reports are given in a way that they appear as accounts given by another participant in the pre-trial phase. The entire experiment has 10 items. Three of them are selected randomly while the remaining seven are not manipulated, meaning that they are treated as control variables. The dependent variable of experiment 1 denotes the changes in participants’ memory reports.
The procedure for the experiment involves presenting a slideshow that has been adopted from Okado and Stark consisting of the actual scenes of theft. It is conducted in an online environment where the participants fill a personality measure. One of the procedures involves requesting members to give an account of the slideshow to gauge their recollection capacity. About 10 questions that have been modified to resemble those police ask eyewitnesses are presented to each participant. The questions are administered randomly. A Likert-Type scale that has 15 points is deployed in the presentation of the questions.
Experiment 2 utilizes a sample of 379 participants drawn from a large university located in southern California. Data is collected until the researchers reach 350 to 400 responses that are validated based on their experience in research concerning misinformation. In its design, the experiment has three conditions. The first condition is controlled. The second act as confirmatory information while the third one is manipulated (Cochran et al. 722). Under the stage-managed setting, members never get any comment concerning their credentials. The precise opinion of their credentials is then presented in the affirmative information situation. Under the maneuvered setting, some deceptive responses may be given. Such feedback is presented in a manner that makes the participants appear to have made mistakes in their identification.
Experiment 2 utilizes a presentation that reveals a male person in the process of illegally taking a radio from another individual’s vehicle. The participants view the man’s face for 18 seconds before line up photographs are prepared in color but on a white background. A pilot testing for dissimilar faces is conducted in a way that ensures the faces remain dissimilar. This approach ensures that the decision made in the identification stage is valid due to manipulations as opposed to similarities in the faces. The method deployed in this test is comparable to that of the first experiment. However, an 11-point scale is used.
Analysis and Results
In the initial experiment, the mean divergence breakdown was done to find out the impact of half-truths on the members’ answers. Positive scores were earned in case the respondents’ responses aligned with misinformation. Otherwise, negative scores were allocated. In the case of the manipulated members, the opinions did not significantly vary from one experiment to the other when compared to the propaganda situation. All studies deploy a particular mathematical model to examine their findings. In this study, the researchers utilized the ANOVA method to scrutinize their findings. The analysis revealed significant impacts of misinformation on participants’ memory.
In experiment 2, one way-ANOVA was deployed as the main tool of analysis. Detectors, the control, non-detectors, and confirmatory information were used just as it was done to the independent variables. When analyzed in the context of the independent variables, the dependent elements, expressed as a phrase of words as described in Table 1), indicated significant disparities occurring between different groups of respondents. For example, in the case of Post-hoc breakdown, sensors out down a smaller number of expressions compared to members in the affirmative information coupled with the stage-managed units. About 35 percent of the participants evidenced memory change. However, the pace of change was determined by the established situation. For example, manipulated conditions revealed a substantive memory transformation of roughly 35% relative to almost 18% that was witnessed in the stage-managed class (Cochran et al. 723). The transformation was momentous.
The findings of the research support the hypothesis. Experiment 1 demonstrates that directly congruent with the hypothesis, in case the witnesses’ exposure to memories varies from those of their self-report recounting their episodic experiences, the recollections also diverge to match the changed reports. This finding has a direct practical implication on evidence gathering by police, especially when evidence is gathered from eyewitnesses.
Any information variation may lead to the alteration of witnesses’ accounts of the original events. This claim may explain the possibilities of wrongful convictions arising from reliance on first-hand eyewitnesses’ memory reports. This practical implication is of great importance, considering that in the US, Innocence Project, an advocacy group that fights for the rights of wrongly convicted persons, claims that more than 272 people had been exonerated by 2011. Theoretically, the research adds value in explaining the possibilities of different versions of memory reports from the same eyewitnesses.
The research has the limitation of over-relying on online platforms to collect data. To this extent, possibilities exist that participants could not have paid adequate attention to the information given before making decisions. Secondly, measuring any detection introduced challenges. Participants may detect discrepancies, but not report them, especially when measuring it while at the same time trying not to capture concurrent detection evidence. A possibility for future research exists in the examination of non-verbal communication in the manipulation process, rather than relying on verbal expressions. In such research, implicit mechanisms for measuring detection should be considered.
Comparing and Contrasting
The research supported an earlier finding that people who detect discrepancies in the variation of their original reports are less likely to suffer memory distortion. Therefore, the study is consistent with the existing research on choice blindness. It underlines the necessity to reconsider self-memory reports. Similar to other researches on choice blindness, the research raises alarm on the reliability of self-memory reports by eyewitnesses. Although the research methodology has some limitations, it plays an important role in explaining the phenomenon in question. It tests experimentally using large samples whether an observer may develop counterfeit memories of incidents following his or her exposure to a fictitious account of his memory testimony (Cochran et al. 724). Using this foundation, the study implies that the phenomenon of choice blindness may be integrated into the concept of misinformation.
Cochran, Kevin, et al. “Memory Blindness: Altered Memory Reports Lead to Distortion in Eyewitness Memory.” Mem Cogn, vol. 44, no. 1, 2016, pp. 717–726.